‘We bombed Paris for Algeria ‘
Islamic cells are infiltrated, ‘terrorist’ attacks orchestrated, French MPs bribed. A secret service defector seeking asylum in Britain reveals the regime’s manipulation of the country’s civil war
John Sweeney and Leonard Doyle, The Observer, 9 November 1997
BOMBS in Paris, help for Saddam Hussein’s programme to produce weapons of mass destruction, the regime of terror at home – today Algeria ‘s secret police state is indicted by one of its own members for crimes against humanity.
‘Yussuf-Joseph’ was a career secret agent in Algeria ‘s ‘securite militaire’ until he defected to Britain, bringing with him the deepest secrets of the regime’s links with Saddam. His wife and children were spirited out. Two and a half years later they are still waiting for political asylum.
‘Joseph’ spent 14 years as part of the Algerian police state. In one gulag torture chamber he saw ‘a human eye lying on a table, and in the eye a fork’.
He now risks assassination for speaking out publicly. He said:
* The bombs that outraged Paris in 1995 – blamed on Muslim fanatics – were the handiwork of the Algerian secret service. They were part of a sophisticated black propaganda ‘psy-ops’ war aimed at galvanising French public opinion against the Islamists.
* The Algerian police state is hiding material for Saddam’s nuclear, chemical and biological warfare programme. Intelligence agents from the two countries are collaborating to defeat the United Nations sanctions against Iraq.
* The relentless massacres in Algeria are the work of secret police and army death squads.
* Algerian intelligence agents routinely bribe European police, journalists and MPs. Joseph said he paid one French MP, who cannot be named for legal reasons, more than 500,000 francs (about pounds 55,500) in bribes.
* The killing of many foreigners, including a British oil worker and seven Italian seamen whose throats were slashed, was organised by the secret police, not Islamic extremists.
Joseph, a strained, pale, intense man, described to the Observer the most secret workings of the Algerian police state. He revealed that the constant terror in which civilians live is orchestrated by two shadowy figures, more powerful than the nominal President, General Liamine Zeroual.
The police state is run as the private fiefdom of two men: Mohammed Mediane, codename ‘Tewfik’, and General Smain Lamari, the most feared names in Algeria . They are, respectively, head of the Algerian Secret Service, Direction du Renseignement et de la Securite (DRS), and
its sub-department, Direction Contre Espionage (DCE).
‘(President) Zeroual is just the cherry on the cake,’ said Joseph. ‘Tewfik is much more important and Smain is his enforcer.’
Since the military coup in 1992 after the first round of elections in which the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was set to take power, the violence has escalated to make Algeria the most dangerous country in the world.
The carnage in Algeria , the bombs in France, have been blamed on a group of Muslim fanatics, the Armed Islamic Group, or GIA. Joseph said: ‘The GIA is a pure product of Smain’s secret service.’ His testimony is supported by a former diplomat, Mohammed Larbi Zitout, number two at the Algerian Embassy in Libya until he defected to Britain.
‘I used to read all the secret telexes,’ Joseph said. ‘I know that the GIA has been infiltrated and manipulated by the government. The GIA has been completely turned by the government.’
Joseph said secret agents who flew in from Algeria , sent by Smain, organised ‘at least’ two of the bombs in Paris in the summer of 1995, in which several people were killed
and one Briton was injured. The operation was run by Colonel Souames Mahmoud, alias Habib, head of the secret service at the Algerian Embassy in Paris. Joseph did not take part in the bombing campaign.
Two men were later seized by French police. One, Khaled Kelkal, was shot in cold blood, his killing caught on camera. The second, Karim Moussa, was captured, injured. He has since disappeared and the French authorities have failed to explain what happened to this most-wanted suspect.
Joseph said Tewfik and Smain spent some of Algeria ‘s oil and gas billions to bribe politicians and security officials in Europe. Joseph said: ‘I personally delivered a suitcase containing 500,000 francs to one French MP with strong links to the French intelligence services.’
The French MP, who lost his seat at the last election, is a noted apologist for the Algerian and Iraqi regimes.
The power of the securite militaire is such that it murdered a president, Joseph said. President Mohammed Boudiaf was assassinated in June 1992 by people within le pouvoir. He knows because two of the killers were associates in the securite militaire.
‘Boudiaf was killed because he had very sensitive files on corrupt generals. The generals have made millions from corruption, held in Swiss banks. Boudiaf started an inquiry. This was carried out by 15 junior officers.’
Two of the 15 – one of
them known as Commandant Mokhtari – ‘are now dead.’ Fatiha Boudiaf, the President’s widow, said last week: ‘Boudiaf knew that he would be killed by those who brought him to power’ – a coded reference to the secret police.
Joseph said the massacres, in which tens of thousands of Algerians have been killed since the civil war started in 1992, have been carried out by the regime’s death squads.
‘Le pouvoir are behind the massacres and other killings besides. It’s to maintain the state of fear,’ he said.
‘In 1992 Smain created a special group, L’Escadron de la Mort (the Squadron of Death). One of its main missions to begin with was to kill officers, colonels.
‘The death squads are within the GIS, the Groupe d’Intervention Speciale. The death squads organise the massacres. If anyone inside the killing machine hesitates to torture or kill, they are automatically killed.
‘Look at where the massacres take place – all in a 75 square-mile block in the Mitidja Plain, a stronghold of FIS and the richest land in Algeria . The government is going to privatise the land. ‘The FIS aren’t doing the massacres. All the intelligence services in Europe know the government is doing it, but they are keeping quiet because they want to protect their supplies of oil.’
Of the 100 foreigners murdered in Algeria , Joseph said he knew that a British oil worker, Alan Wilson, a pipe-layer contracted to British Gas, from Edinburgh, had been killed because the British authorities had not given the Algerian government enough help in tracking Islamic extremists in London.
Joseph cited an atrocity when seven Italian seamen had their throats slit – the Algerians call it ‘the big smile’ – in July 1994. The seven men on the Italian ship Lucina were killed at the new port of Jenjen, near Jijel, 150 miles east of Algiers. He said: ‘It was a deliberate act of state policy to murder the Italian seamen to put blame on the Muslim fundamentalists. Clinton was meeting the Group of Seven in Italy the next day.’
Joseph said he had witnessed torture. ‘I have seen the blowtorch used in Chateauneuf. The smell is awful. They call it an Algerian word. When you kill a lamb, they blowtorch it to burn off the wool. It has a very special smell of burning hair and flesh, bouzalouf, smell of burnt wool, flesh.’
But the blowtorch was not the worst. ‘I have seen in Antar, a torture centre near Algiers Zoo, a human eye on a table with a fork in it. I have seen interrogations when they have threatened ‘speak or we will fuck your daughter’ only 14 years of age. I very rarely have a peaceful night . . . I have terrible nightmares.’
He described electrode torture he had seen. ‘They manacle a person to a bed, no mattress, just the springs. Then they get a live electric wire and touch the person – he made a swishing movement, his right hand coming down in a lash: ‘Dak’, and back and forward, ‘dak’, and back and forward ‘dak’, and so on: dak, daaaaaaaaaak.’ He kept his arm forward, intimating that the current remains on the body.
‘Smain used to go to the torture Zoo and my colleagues would say: ‘The Boss is here. He is working.’ That meant he was supervising the torture himself.’
* Four children died when a bomb exploded at an abandoned house in western Algeria last week, the national daily Al-Khabar reported yesterday. It also said that another bomb in Algiers killed one person. Five civilians were slaughtered south-west of the capital. The paper blamed ‘Islamic extremists’.