No end to killing as government turns blind eye
Algeria Interface, 22/12/00, www.algeria-interface.com/new/article.php-article_id=114&lng=e.htm
While ordinary Algerians fast for the holy month of Ramadan, terrorists have gone on a killing orgy, all but ignored by the state media.
Paris, 22/12/00 – As the holy month of Ramadan entered its last 10 days, Algeria was rocked by the mass murder of 16 children in their boarding school dormitory in Medea, 100 kilometres from Algiers.
As bad, if not worse, was to come from the authorities: the single, government-controlled TV channel ignored the massacre as did the rest of the state media.
The privately-owned independent press, however, voiced outraged at the official silence over the terror in the Algerian countryside.
Mohamed Benchicou, managing director of the Le Matin, delivered this editorial broadside: « Bouteflika has shut up and ordered the state media to do likewise so that the screams of terror from Medea are not heard abroad. »
The revolt spread swiftly to political parties belonging to the ruling coalition and to the all-powerful trade union, UGTA, which issued a call to stand by the army « in serried ranks ». Tellingly, the appeal made no mention of Bouteflika.
Within a day the Medea killing was followed by a further spate of massacres that have sounded the death knell of the civil harmony policy vaunted by the president and a section of the Algerian army.
The days have passed and still no official statement is forthcoming from a government frozen into inaction by the wave of bloodshed.
The facts the state media have tried to hush in the last few days are bleak. As Ramadan draws to a close, the bloodletting has claimed the lives of over 100 innocent men, women and children in mere days. The authorities have proved incapable of protecting them.
The press has now begun to probe unsettlingly into the killings of poverty-stricken villagers — a regular occurrence even before Ramadan — that go on in remote country areas far from heavily patrolled conurbations.
It turns out that the Medea school killers had silencers on their guns, which casts uncertainty on their identity.
The inhabitants of the small coastal town of Tenes where around 30 people were butchered only a day after Medea have also made some very disturbing claims. They know, and know that the authorities know, where Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas hide out. Why then has the army failed to intervene?
It prefers to use its hardware from a distance, like it did in the areas around Jijel and Tenes three weeks ago. Then it shelled, bombed and pounded the countryside where guerrillas were hiding out before troops moved into to flush them out. And, as so often before, results were paltry.
Official cynicism has gone as far as to wait for massacres to take place before arming local people. . . who had repeatedly lodged requests for weapons to defend themselves months prior.
Criticism is now, for the first time, also being levelled at « patriots », the local anti-guerrilla militia forces armed and paid by the army.
The inhabitants of Tenes angrily assert that many patriots had not received their wages for months, while others are « involved in business dealings » and not in fighting Islamic guerrillas.
There is speculation that the army has its reasons for allowing the situation to deteriorate by allowing terrorists a free hand. The official response, as voiced in the slavishly pro-government daily, El Moudjahid, is that active terrorists are desperate extremists whose days are numbered.
That is as may be, but the way armed groups have redeployed over the last few weeks is frighteningly impressive.