Patterns of Global Terrorism 1997 - Algeria

The Government of Algeria does not face a significant threat to its stability from Islamic extremists, but the country's domestic terrorist problem remained among the world's worst in 1997. At least 70,000 Algerians – Islamic militants, civilians, and security personnel – have been killed since Algerian militants began their campaign to topple the government in 1992.

The government made some progress against the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS) – the military wing of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) that primarily attacked government-related targets – which, together with the FIS, called for a cease-fire on 1 October. The government was less successful against the GIA, the most radical of the insurgent groups, although its efforts appear to have forced the group to operate in a smaller geographic area. GIA terrorist operations continued, nonetheless, against a broad spectrum of Algerian civilians in 1997, including women and children. The worst incident of 1997 occurred on 31 December when more than 400 civilians were killed in Relizane, approximately 150 miles southwest of the capital. This act of violence was also the single worst massacre since the GIA began its reign of terror in 1992.

Seven foreigners were killed in acts of terrorist violence in Algeria in 1997, bringing the total number of foreigners killed by the GIA in Algeria since 1992 to 133. The group did not claim responsibility for these killings, nor did it issue an official communique announcing a resurgence of its violent campaign against foreigners. It remains unclear whether the foreigners were being specifically targeted or whether those killed were incidental victims of violence.

The Algerian Government prosecuted cases of persons charged with committing terrorist acts or supporting terrorist groups in 1997. In July an Algerian court convicted a former lawyer for the FIS of belonging to an armed group, and in December an Algerian court jailed 17 GIA members for setting fire to an Algerian oilfield.


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