Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! Leading western newspapers have suddenly stumbled on the fact that it is indeed the Algerian junta - not the ‘bloodthirsty Islamic extremists’ routinely blamed by the regime and its western backers that is responsible for the horrendous massacres that have made the North African State a byword for violence.
New ‘revelations’ in the London-based Observer Sunday newspaper and Le Monde, the Parisian daily - quoting senior Algerian current and former security officers - accuse the generals of the murder of foreigners, as well as the 1995 Paris bombings, and of bribing European politicians and journalists to back them.
The charges will not come as a surprise to Muslimedia readers as the paper has over the years meticulously covered the Algerian conflict, exposing the role of the small gang of army offices - for whom ‘president’ Liamine Zeroual acts as a mere front - and their western supporters, not only in the massacres but also in the mismanagement and plunder of the country’s resources.
In numerous editorials and reports, the paper has consistently claimed that the junta is orchestrating the violence in order to discredit the Islamic movement, and that western governments and media - aware of the facts on the ground - deliberately back the bloodthirsty gangsters in the grand interests of reversing Islamic revivalism in a region of vital strategic and economic importance.
But this is no reason for not welcoming the new coverage, which brings into the public domain information hitherto kept under wraps by those privy to it but now divulged by key members of the secret police, some of whom are seeking asylum in Britain. They even accuse the junta of helping the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Husain, to produce weapons of mass destruction.
The Observer published the first report on November 9, citing the testimony of a former member of the security police, now waiting, along with his wife and children, for political asylum in Britain. Code-named ‘Joseph’ by the paper, he served for 14 years as a member of Algeria’s ‘security militaire’ until his defection to Britain. Clearly risking assassination for being so specific, he told the Observer:
* The terrorist bombing of Parisian targets in 1995 were carried out by the Algerian secret service, though blamed on ‘Islamic extremists’, as part of a plot to inflame French public opinion against the Islamic movement.
* Algerian and Iraqi intelligence are collaborating to hide material for Saddam’s nuclear and chemical programme.
* Secret military and police death squads are responsible for the genocide in the country.
* The secret police and not Islamic activists, as claimed by the regime, organised the murder of most of the 100 foreigners murdered in Algeria - including the seven Italian seamen whose throats were cut in July 1994 while asleep on board the Italian ship Lucina at the port of Jenjen, 150 miles east of Algiers.
Joseph said Zeroual was a mere figurehead, naming two military officers as the real power in the land and ultimately responsible for the terror gripping the land. Muhammad Mediane, code-named ‘Tewfik’, and general Smain Lamari are, respectively, head of the Algerian secret service, Direction du Renseignement et de la Securite (DRS), and Direction Contre Espionage (DCE), a sub-division of the DRS.
According to Joseph, ‘Zeroual is just the cherry on the cake, while Tewfik is much more and Smain is his enforcer.’
He told the Observer that the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which the regime and the west normally blame for the massacres, is the ‘pure product of Smain’s secret service.’
‘I used to read all the secret telexes,’ he is quoted as saying. ‘I know that the GIA has been infiltrated and manipulated by the government. The GIA has been completely turned by the government.’
Joseph also gave specific information on how secret service agents, flown in from Algeria by Smain, organised the bombing raids in Paris in the summer of 1995 in which several people were killed. He even named colonel Souames Mahmoud, head of the secret service at the Algerian embassy in Paris, as the officer incharge of the operation.
He also confirmed what is an open secret in Algeria: that the ‘securite militaire’, which employed him, killed president Muhammad Boudiaf in June 1992. He should know because two of the killers were his colleagues. Fifteen junior officers, two of whom are now dead carried out the operation, he revealed.
According to Joseph, Boudiaf was assassinated because he had ‘very sensitive files’ on corrupt generals, who had stashed away millions of dollars in Swiss accounts, and began an investigation into the matter.
But some of the most remarkable revelations made by the former secret service agent relate how the Algerian junta has managed to corrupt European politicians, journalists and intelligence officials. Tewfik and Smain, Joseph told the Observer, have used the oil and gas wealth of the country to bribe them - claiming that he personally ‘delivered a suitcase containing 500,000 francs to one French member of parliament with strong links to the French intelligence services.’ The paper refuses to name the MP for legal reasons.
The ‘killing machine’, as Joseph calls the death squads, organised by Smain, are ruthlessly supervised to ensure that they faithfully carry out all orders to kill or torture. ‘If anyone inside the killing machine hesitates to torture or kill, they are automatically killed,’ he said. He is adamant that all the killings are traceable to the ‘pouvoir’, and that the FIS has nothing to do with them.
The day after Joseph’s revelations were published in the Observer, Le Monde published its report, citing the evidence of an Algerian Secret Service officer still in Algeria. Code-named ‘Hakim’ in the Le Monde report, the officer confirmed Joseph’s allegations - explaining that a group of Algerian officers had decided to inform the European media of the true facts of the Algerian civil war because it was impossible to organise a military coup.
‘In Algeria everyone has blood on his or her hands,’ Hakim said. ‘We’re ashamed of seeing people tortured.’
The revelations have set in motion a number of events. The British and French governments have predictably reacted by ordering their intelligence services to rubbish the allegations in both reports - according to a report in the Observer a week later. Western capitals, including Washington, are too heavily involved in the Algerian conflict on the side of the junta to encourage such reports.
But the Italian government appears to have believed the reports - re-opening the case of the killing of its seamen in Algeria in 1994, and demanding that Algiers name the guilty men.
When not blaming ‘Islamic extremists’, western officials and journalists usually argue that the Algerian situation is so complex that it is difficult to know who is doing what to whom. This flimsy pretext, which they used at the height of the Bosnian war to block any action designed to halt Serbian atrocities against Muslims, is even more transparent in the light of the new information and, more ominously, the revelations yet to be made by Algerian army officers, if Hakim is right.
Muslimedia: December 1-15, 1997