Violence in Algeria has increased considerably in recent weeks and has now spread from outlying districts to Algiers, the capital, and holiday resorts in its vicinity. The attacks apparently occur at random, and responsibility for them is seldom claimed by anybody, with the result that Algerians throughout the country feel unprotected and bewildered.
Ahmad Awyahya, Algeria’s justice minister, has announced that Ali Bilhaj, the deputy leader of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), who has been serving a 12-year prison sentence since 1991, will not be released early, and that the ban on FIS will not be lifted. The announcement was made because of speculation that Bilhaj was about to be released and that FIS, which was banned in 1992, would soon be able to resume its activities as a legally recognised political organisation.
After nearly a decade of silence, former Algerian president Chadli Benjedid has spoken. In statements to Algerian journalists last month, Benjedid responded to criticism describing his 10-year presidency as the “black decade” and accusing him of making a deal with the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique de Salut or FIS).
In Algeria the year 2000 was one of undiminished violence and bloodshed, very different from the harmony that president Abdul-Aziz Bouteflika claims to have ushered in by his offer of amnesty to the country’s armed groups.
All over the Muslim world, Ramadan is a time of peace, reflection and piety. In Algeria, however, it has become known as an annual peak in the brutal and apparently mindless killings of innocent people that the government blames on Islamic activists, but most ordinary people attribute to forces linked to Algeria’s security agencies.
The ninja - slang for the Algerian junta’s feared Balaclava-clad paramilitary police force - spoke quietly as he gave the details of the October 10 massacre last year.
The countries of southern Europe, which fear the fall-out from the mounting violence in their neighbour across the Mediterranean sea, and Arab dictators unneved by the continued failure of an Arab regime to quell an Islamic challenge, are manoevring to intervene through dubious offers of mediation,...