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ALGER (AP) - Déjà sur la liste noire de Washington, le GIA (Groupe Islamique Armé) et le GSPC (Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat), les groupes armés les plus actifs en Algérie, pourraient bientôt figurer sur la liste européenne des organisations terroristes, croit savoir, dimanche 21 mars 2004, le quotidien algérien "Liberté".
D’après le journal, Alger a décidé de lancer une nouvelle offensive diplomatique en vue de faire aboutir cette requête quelques jours après les attentats de Madrid qui ont fait plus de 202 morts le 11 mars 2004.
La "Liberté" affirme que, la semaine dernière, à Bruxelles, le directeur Europe au ministère algérien des Affaires étrangères, Mohamed Hannache, a une nouvelle fois demandé aux représentants de l’Union Européenne d’accepter d’inscrire le GSPC et le GIA, à l’origine de la mort de plusieurs dizaines de milliers de personnes en Algérie, sur leur liste des organisations terroristes.
Le journal rappelle que le GIA a déjà perpétré des attentats sanglants en France et que le GSPC a menacé à plusieurs reprises de commettre des attentats en Europe et aux Etats-Unis, mais que cela était jusque là insuffisant pour convaincre les Européens du bien-fondé de la demande algérienne. La revendication algérienne s’est, toujours, heurtée à un refus ferme de leur part.
L’Union Européenne qui considérait que la situation en Algérie est trop confuse s’est gardée jusqu’à présent de se prononcer clairement sur la situation algérienne.
Aujourd’hui, la "Liberté" pense que l’Algérie a de fortes chances d’être entendue à la suite des attentats de Madrid, qui montrent que le terrorisme maghrébin est désormais exportable au même titre que ceux d’Arabie saoudite, d’Afghanistan ou du Pakistan.
En plus de l’inscription du GIA et du GSPC ainsi que des groupes marocains de la Salafia Djihadia et Assirat el-Moustaquim sur la liste européenne des groupes terroristes, l’Europe devrait, selon le journal, également intensifier sa coopération avec l’Algérie et le Maroc dans le domaine de la lutte contre le terrorisme.
La Sale Guerre (The Dirty War), Habib Souaïdia, Paris : La Découverte, 2001. pp203 ;
L’Ecrivain (The Writer), Yasmina Khadra, Paris : Julliard 2001. pp240
In La Sale Guerre (The Dirty War), which was greeted with much controversy when it was published in France last month and has now made it onto the French bestseller lists, Habib Souaïdia, a young former officer of an elite unit of the Algerian army, recounts his experiences fighting against Algeria’s outlawed armed Islamist groups between 1992 and 1995, when he was imprisoned on what he says were trumped-up charges.
Released in 1999, he has since been living in France, where he has been granted political-refugee status. In his book, written as a result of a determination to describe the reality of the violence that has raged in Algeria since the cancellation of the 1992 elections in which the Islamist parties were expected to achieve a majority, Souaïdia describes an escalating cycle of violence and brutality in which, he says, both the outlawed armed Islamist groups and the army itself are implicated.
"I’ve seen fellow officers burn alive a 15-year-old child. I’ve seen soldiers dressed as terrorists massacring civilians. I’ve seen colonels kill ordinary suspects in cold blood. I’ve seen officers torture Islamists to death. I’ve seen too many things....and these are sufficient reasons, I am convinced, to break the wall of silence."
Souaïdia joined the Algerian army in 1989 and followed an elite formation at one of the country’s top officer-training schools, Cherchell.
In The Dirty War, he describes the training he was given there and the views he and his fellow officer trainees had of the political instability that was beginning to affect their country, particularly following the riots in October 1988 in which an estimated 500, chiefly young, demonstrators were killed, leading to the process of democratic reform announced by the then Algerian president Chadli Bendjedid.
Souaïdia describes watching this reform process unfold on television in the barracks at Cherchell, as first the single-party character of the country was broken with the legalisation of opposition parties and then multi-party elections were announced. The newly legal FIS (Front islamique du salut, or Islamic Salvation Front) knew, he says how to capitalise on the discontent of the country’s youth, which constituted 75 per cent of the population, and the FIS began to make its presence felt at local level.
"Very soon, the socialist banner that used to hang in front of town-halls -al thawra min al shaab wa ila al shaab (Revolution by and for the People)- was replaced by another -baladiyya islamiyya (Islamic municipality)."
In the towns, couples and young women were accosted by youths carrying a sign with the words shorta islamiyya (Islamic Police) on it, and they carried out identity checks, lectured girls not wearing the hijab and beat up men who resisted.
"We, young army officers, did not know where to turn for guidance. There was an impression of living in a country suffering from a split personality : In the rich areas, people continued to live as in the West, while in certain poorer districts, life was run by Islamist militants."
Nevertheless, guidance was provided and the official tone towards the Islamists hardened. Souaïdia describes his first contact with the "dirty war" he says was being carried out in the country against the armed Islamist groups, or "tangos" (terrorists), as having come in March 1993.
On this occasion, he was ordered to provide nighttime military escort to a lorry containing members of his own parachute regiment as well as to others, not dressed in military uniform, on their way to a nearby village suspected of harbouring FIS sympathisers.
Some hours later, he escorted the lorry back, and, having arrived back at base, one of the officers who had taken part in the operation "drew a blood-stained dagger across his throat. He could not have done more to make me understand what had occurred.
Two days later, the Algerian papers announced that ’Twelve people have died in a terrorist attack on the village of Zaatria.’"
Later in the book, Souaïdia makes enquiries about a man apparently kidnapped by terrorists, having been asked to do so by the local police. "We’re the terrorists," he is jeeringly told by a superior. "Go downstairs [to the cells] if you want to see your man." It was as a result of this realisation, Souaïdia says, that it became almost impossible for him to continue his military vocation.
According to an Italian judge, Ferdinando Imposimato of the Italian Supreme Court of Appeal, who introduces Souaïdia’s book, an independent commission of enquiry should now be constituted to investigate allegations of torture and human-rights abuses in Algeria, along the lines of that set up to investigate, for example, the Pinochet regime in Chile.
In his book, Souaïdia make other highly damaging allegations concerning the actions of the Algerian army in the period 1992 to 1995, among them being that the use of torture was generalised and that, in order to carry out the bloodthirsty deeds that they were assigned, officers and men habitually resorted to drugs and alcohol. Racketeering, drug dealing and corruption, he says, were rife, "80 per cent of officers and men taking drugs daily."
"The logical consequence" of official policy to break the Islamist groups at all costs was "that anarchy reigned in the barracks, as everything, or nearly everything, was permitted," and civilians who refused to pay off army protection rackets could easily be eliminated and the crime attributed to the Islamists.
Habib Souaïdia makes it clear that he is not a sympathiser of the armed Islamist cause, describing the violence committed by the armed Islamist groups in shocking detail.
In Lakhdaria, for example, where he was stationed from 1992 on, members of the militias he says "burnt down schools, raped women, blew up buildings...
They had forbidden cigarettes, reading the newspapers, watching television or listening to the radio ; they had forbidden young men to do their national service, women to work or to go to school, and they did not hesitate to slit the throats of those who refused.
" Nevertheless, he also strongly criticises what he describes as the corruption of the regime, bitterly denouncing the Bendjedid period in particular as one in which "everyone ’ate’ except the people."
"Military aircraft would regularly take off from Boufarik to take the wives and servants of high officials to Paris, Palma, Madrid or Rome to do their shopping," he writes, "a practice that still continues."
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