The brutal battle for Algeria

December 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

From Daily Mail online:

THE BRUTAL BATTLE FOR ALGERIA

Almost from the day in 1830 that the French seized it as a colony, Algeria’s story was one of brutality and repression.

Bent on exploiting the country for its natural resources, the colonial rulers regarded their Muslim subjects as an inferior species and responded to any resistance with a policy of indiscriminate slaughter.

In one particularly hideous early episode, French forces trapped civilians in caves and set bonfires at the entrances, so they had to choose between dying from smoke or flames.

French troops tend to an injured demonstrator in Algiers in 1962

Over the first 30 years of French rule, the population shrank from a pre-colonial peak of 4million to an estimated 2.3million, and fresh outbreaks of violence were common throughout the next century.

They culminated in the 1950s in an eight-year war of independence that still ranks among the bloodiest conflicts of the last century.

France has never accepted that atrocities carried out in the 1954-1962 war, when thousands were tortured and massacred, were acts of genocide.

The seeds of the rebellion were sown between the two world wars, when Algerian resistance groups and nationalist movements grew stronger.

In 1945, demonstrations throughout Algeria called for independence. French security forces put them down with the usual brute force, and shot dead a protester waving a banned Algerian flag, sparking a reaction that engulfed the country in riots. In the violence that followed, 45,000 Algerians were killed over a few days, according to Algerian figures. Many were burned in ovens, it is alleged, to destroy the evidence of carnage.

Turkey appeared to suggest yesterday that some were thrown into the ovens while still alive, though there is no validated evidence for this.

By 1950, French Foreign Legion troops were helping to track down and eliminate revolutionaries, and an ‘uprising’ compelled France to commit 400,000 soldiers.

In a chilling echo of another war that had only recently ended, they set up concentration camps, tortured prisoners and carried out mass executions of civilians suspected of aiding the rebels.

The bloody war continued until 1962, when the French withdrew.

Algeria suffered a death toll variously estimated at between 500,000 and 1.5million.

And there was more atrocity to come. Thousands of Muslim Algerian ‘Harkis’ – pro-French volunteers – who had fought alongside French troops were abandoned to face bloody reprisals in their homeland.

Estimates are that at least 30,000, possibly as many as 150,000, were slaughtered by republican supporters after the Evian peace accord was signed in March 1962.

France, it is alleged, turned a blind eye.

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