Messy end for AIS

Messy end for AIS

Algeria Interface, 18 January 2000

The amnesty President Bouteflika has granted fighters from the former Islamic Salvation Army (AIS) is the culmination of two months of secret talks. But violence continues and resentment simmers as former AIS fighters return home.

Paris, 18/01/00 – The pardon granted to the fighters of the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS) and its decision to dissolve are no more likely to influence the rest of the Islamist guerrilla movement than the Civil Harmony Act.

The act led to about 1,000 fighters turning themselves in to the authorities. But two other guerrilla outfits to which the authorities have made overtures, Antar Zouabri’s Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and its rival, Hassan Hattab’s Preaching and Combat Group, are still fighting.

During secret talks between the AIS and senior army generals, the AIS emir, Madani Mazrag was in regular contact with Antar Zouabri and Hassan Hattab. General Smain Lamari of the Algerian secret services also made representations before the Civil Concord Act became law. And FIS number three, the recently assassinated Abdelkader Hachani, had approached Hassan Hattab about his group laying down arms.

Blood flows while fighters trickle home
Hassan Hattab was, in fact, reported to have welcomed the AIS’s unilateral ceasefire in 1997. The Preaching and Combat Group did eventually come to the negotiating table, but refused to decommission its weapons at the last minute. And mindless bloodletting and attacks on the army continue unabated .

AIS fighters began returning home from their bivouacs in the countryside in mid-January. They are handing over their weapons in exchange for a certificate of exemption from prosecution for any crimes committed between 1993 and 1997 – the time-span between the founding of the AIS and its ceasefire declaration.

Each pardoned fighter will get his job back, receive a lump sum of 10,000 dinars (around $180) and a monthly benefit of 3,000 dinars (about $55).

The AIS camps, mostly hamlets deserted by their inhabitants at the height of the violence, have been gradually occupied by heavily armed military detachments.

Army alert as officials plan guerrillas future
There is agreement from different sources in Algiers that the authorities are to examine a number of issues still pending.

They include drafting Islamic fighters into army-controlled militia, maintaining an AIS presence in areas where the GIA is active, freeing FIS prisoners, pardoning militants in exile and protecting Islamist leaders pardoned by President Bouteflika.

Islamists have hailed the AIS’s pardon as a victory for Madani Mazrag over the regime. Many civilian volunteers, or “patriots”, as well as members of the military who have fought Islamic guerrillas from the outset take a very dim view of the amnesty. The presidential pardon granted on January 11 has also raised hackles in organisations representing the victims of terrorism.

The situation is tense in numerous villages where pardoned fighters, or “repentants” as they are known, sewed terror in the mid-90s. The Algerian army, fearing reprisals, has disarmed vigilante groups and stepped up its presence in the regions where AIS troops were once most active.

Algeria Interface