Press Interview overlooked despite grave Allegations

Press Interview overlooked despite grave Allegations

Algeria Interface, 27 July 2000

In an interview to an Arabic weekly that has gone oddly unnoticed, former Islamic guerrilla turned anti-Islamic militia man makes deeply disturbing claims about the regime’s role in the birth of Islamic terrorism.

Paris, 27/7/00 – Ahmed Merah, former Islamic guerrilla turned anti-Islamic militia man, recently gave an interview to Arabic weekly El Khabar El Ousboui that revealed sinister machinations at the highest echelons of power in Algeria.

Merah belonged to Algeria’s first Islamic guerrilla group, the Armed Islamic Movement (MIA), disbanded in the mid-80s in the wake of mass arrests and the shooting of its leader Mustapha Bouali.

Merah, who spent four years in prison, describes his time in the MIA in an eccentrically written book entitled “The Bouali Affair”. On his release, he switched allegiances to work for Algerian intelligence as an anti-Islamic militia chief in the 90s.

Secret police behind Islamic guerillas
Strangely snubbed by the French-language press, Merah’s interview levels disturbing charges against the secret police and Mahfoud Nahnah, now leader of parliamentary Islamic party, MSP. He alleges that the secret police actually created the MIA in the early 80s in a move to counter what it saw as President Chadli’s reformist leanings.

Merah goes on to claim that Mahfoud Nahnah was an undercover intelligence collaborator, sending young Islamic volunteers to Afghanistan ostensibly to fight in the “holy war” there. In reality, he was helping the secret services rid Algeria of its most dangerous extremists.

Merah’s disclosures fly in the face of the official view (widely disseminated in the press) that diehard Islamic fighters like the GIA are envoys from Afghanistan. The implications are grave: not only are the terrorists homegrown, but the secret services inadvertently helped form and train them to serve their own domestic ends.

Who protects Merah?
Head of the Algerian secret police at the time was (now retired) General Mohamed Betchine who Merah states recently threatened his life. Betchine called on the services of another retired general, Tayeb Derradji, the chief of the military police, to silence Merah for fear that his book would provide damaging disclosures.

As a result, Merah found himself in prison in 1997 on what he claims were trumped-up charges of illegal commercial dealings. The fabricated case against him also fuels the scathing attack he launches on former Justice Minister, Mohamed Adami, in his interview.

So serious are Merah’s claims that consequences would be dire should any of them be substantiated. Yet the apparent impunity with which he has been able to speak out raises the question of whether he is acting alone and, if not, who is protecting him.

The regime is controlled from a power base formed by the military and the secret services within which rival cliques vie for dominance. Because Merah’s accusations are levelled at men close to former President Zeroual, there is conjecture that he is a pawn in manoeuvres to discredit the Zeroual clique. Which in turn raises another question: will the revelations end here?

Saïd Ould-Khadra