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Algeria: The anti-terrorism campaign conducted by the army between 1997 and 2000, including the army's strategy

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 27 August 2007
Citation / Document Symbol DZA102593.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Algeria: The anti-terrorism campaign conducted by the army between 1997 and 2000, including the army's strategy, 27 August 2007, DZA102593.E, available at: [accessed 13 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Media sources indicate that the army is the "supreme authority" (Le Monde diplomatique Feb. 1998) and the "strongest national institution" in Algeria (Financial Times 19 Apr. 1999). Forced Migration Online (FMO), a Web site dedicated to providing information regarding the situation of forced migrants around the world (FMO n.d.), states that power is held by the army, not politicians, and that the army is "virtually unconstrained by legal controls" (FMO Jan. 2004). Amnesty International (AI) reports that security forces were responsible for human rights violations in the 1990s, including extra-judicial executions, "'disappearances'" and the use of "torture" (10 July 2006). FMO specifies that in 1997 and 1998, large-scale massacres were carried out against the civilian population; however, it is not clear who was responsible since armed groups are known to have carried out operations in military uniforms and the military is known to have worn civilian clothing during engagements (Jan. 2004).

A Reuters article published on 21 July 1997 reports that the army was engaged in a "'search and destroy' strategy" and was responsible for killing more than 90 rebels in one operation. Similarly, an article from the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) of 16 June 1997 indicates that one of the elements of the strategy of then-president Zeroual was a "brutal military campaign against the regime's underground Islamist opponents."

In 1999, president Bouteflika's government issued a limited amnesty under the Civil Harmony Law (Loi sur la Concorde civile) for opponents responsible for less-serious crimes (Jane's Intelligence Review 1 Mar. 2000; Z Magazine Dec. 2000; FMO Jan. 2004). This amnesty created tensions and divisions within the Islamic Salvation Front (Front islamique du salut, FIS) (ICG 9 July 2001, 12; Jane's Intelligence Review 1 Mar. 2000; see also US Apr. 2000).

According to an article in Z Magazine, an independent monthly magazine whose mission is to resist injustice, promote liberty and defend those subject to repression (Z Magazine n.d.), when the amnesty expired in early 2000, the security forces called up thousands of reservists and pursued a military offensive "aimed at eliminating the remaining recalcitrant militants" (Dec. 2000).

Similarly, an article published in Jane's Intelligence Review in 2000 provides the following information regarding the Algerian army's campaign against Islamic insurgents after the amnesty expired:

Having reached an agreement with several of the militant groups, the Algerian government was committed to mounting a massive offensive against remaining rebels. Immediately after 13 January [2000], tens of thousands of troops, including paratroopers and members of the Special Intervention Group (GISES), were deployed to the east, west and south of the capital. Convoys of troops and combat helicopters were observed leaving military installations around the capital. It emerged that fighters who had surrendered were assisting government security forces in tracking down their erstwhile colleagues, another bitter twist into the long running conflict.

The attack was primarily an Algerian Army [Armée nationale populaire, ANP] operation, although Gendarmerie Nationale and special police units were noted. These were principally engaged in guard and checkpoint duties supplementing local volunteers like Les Patriotes and community guards.

Principal operations were in the provinces of Tizi Ouzou, Bouira, Bejaia and Boumerdes. In some areas, the ANP was engaged in bloody encounters with the remaining terrorists as it sought to root them out. Figures from Algeria are notoriously unreliable, but it is likely that several hundred soldiers and a similar figure of terrorists had died by the end of January in fighting in the mountains, remote villages and in the forests of Ain Tanik in the Relezan region, west of Algiers. (1 Mar. 2000)

AI explains that the Department for Information and Security (Département du renseignement et de la sécurité, DRS), previously called "Military Security," is the branch of the security forces most often accused of ill-treatment (10 July 2006). The DRS is an intelligence agency specializing in interrogating those suspected of having information on terrorist activities (AI 10 July 2006). In its report on ill-treatment committed by Algeria's military security, AI reports the following:

Algeria's counter-terrorism campaign has been aimed first and foremost at crushing armed groups in the context of a national power struggle.... The escalation of violence in Algeria was the result of a complex dynamic in which the security forces themselves played a key part by committing large-scale violence. In aiming to root out support for the FIS amongst the population at large, Algerian security forces engaged in a campaign of violence against members and actual or perceived supporters of the FIS....

During the 1990s, the internal branches of the DRS reportedly set up local centres throughout the country, the Territorial Centres for Research and Investigation (Centres territoriaux de recherche et d'investigation, CTR), which were at the forefront of so-called anti-terrorist operations. De facto, other branches of the army, as well as the police and gendarmerie, are said to have operated under the authority of the DRS and its senior commanders. In addition, the DRS apparently created sub-structures within the organization about which no written records were kept and whose composition and functioning remained unclear even to senior officers within the service. From early on in the conflict, these structures were allegedly responsible for carrying out extrajudicial executions of suspected FIS sympathizers and for "unofficial" missions relating to the infiltration of armed groups. (10 July 2006)

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 10 July 2006. "Unrestrained Powers: Torture by Algeria's Military Security." (MDE 28/004/2006) [Accessed 23 Aug. 2007]

Financial Times [London]. 19 April 1999. "Algeria's One-Candidate Election Leaves Army as Dominant Force." (Factiva)

Forced Migration Online (FMO). January 2004. Michael Collyer. "FMO Research Guide: Algeria." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2007]
_____. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2007]

International Crisis Group (ICG). 9 July 2001. "The Civil Concord: A Peace Initiative Wasted." (Africa Report No. 31) [Accessed 23 Aug. 2007]

Jane's Intelligence Review [Surrey]. 1 March 2000. Vol. 12, Issue 3. Paul Harris. "Algeria Faces the Challenges of Peace." (>(([80](%20Algeria%20D>%20army)%20%20body),%20([100]%20([100](%20Algeria%20D>%20army)%20%20title)%20D>%20([100](%20Algeria%20D>%20army)%20%20body))))> [Accessed 23 Aug. 2007]

Middle East Economic Digest (MEED). 16 June 1997. "Algeria's Generals Bid for Legitimacy." (Factiva)

Le Monde diplomatique [Paris]. February 1998. Lahouari Addi. "In the Dark Shadow of Terror: The Algerian Army Holds the Levers of Power." [Accessed 23 Aug. 2007]

Reuters. 21 July 1997. "Algerian Forces Kill 90 Guerrillas." (Factiva)

United States (US). April 2000. Department of State. "Algeria." Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999. [Accessed 27 Aug. 2007]

Z Magazine. December 2000. Ahmed Bouzid. "The Algerian Tragedy Continues: Thousands Disappeared or Massacred." [Accessed 23 Aug. 2007]
_____. N.d. "Mission." [Accessed 23 Aug. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Publications: Political Handbook of the World 2007, La guerre civile en Algérie and Violences ambiguës: Aspects du conflit armé en Algérie.

Internet sites, including: Algeria-Watch, El Moudjahid [Algiers], El Watan [Algiers], Factiva, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor,, Services du chef du gouvernement, Le Soir d'Algérie [Algiers], United States Department of State, World News Connection (WNC).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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