The Armed Islamic Group (GIA, from French: Groupe Islamique Armé;
Arabic: الجماعة الإسلامية المسلّحة,
al-Jama'ah al-Islamiyah al-Musallaha) was one of the two main Islamist
insurgents groups that fought the Algerian government and army in the
Algerian Civil War. It was created from smaller armed groups following
the 1992 military coup and arrest and internment of thousands of
officials in the
Islamic Salvation Front
Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party after
that party won the first round of parliamentary elections in December
1991. It was led by a succession of amirs (commanders) who were killed
or arrested one after another.
Unlike the other main armed groups, the MIA and later the AIS, in its
pursuit of an
Islamic state the GIA sought not to pressure the
government into concessions but to destabilise and overthrow it, to
"purge the land of the ungodly". Its slogan inscribed on all
communiques was: "no agreement, no truce, no dialogue". The group
desired to create "an atmosphere of general insecurity" and
employed kidnapping, assassination, and bombings, including car bombs
and targeted not only security forces but civilians.
Between 1992 and 1998, the GIA conducted a violent campaign of
civilian massacres, sometimes wiping out entire villages in its area
of operation, (notably the Bentalha and Rais). It attacked and killed
other Islamists that left the GIA or attempted to negotiate with the
government. It also targeted foreign civilians living in Algeria,
killing more than 100 expatriate men and women in the country. The
group established a presence outside Algeria, in France, Belgium,
Britain, Italy and the United States, and launched terror attacks in
France in late 1994.
The "undisputed principal
Islamist force" in
Algeria in 1994, by
1996, militants were deserting "in droves", alienated by its execution
of civilians and Islamists leaders. In 1999, a government amnesty
law motivated large numbers of jihadis to "repent". The remnants of
the GIA proper were hunted down over the next two years, leaving a
splinter group the
Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat
Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC),
which announced its support for
Al-Qaeda in October 2003.
The GIA was and is considered a terrorist organisation by the
Algeria and France. To what extent the group was
infiltrated and manipulated by Algerian security services is
disputed. The GIA remains a Proscribed Organisation
United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000.
1.1.1 Abdelhak Layada
1.1.2 Djafar al-Afghani
1.1.3 Cherif Gousmi
1.1.4 Djamel Zitouni
126.96.36.199 GIA in France
Antar Zouabri and takfir
2 Claims of Algerian Government involvement
3 Leaders, "amirs"
4 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
According to Algerian veterans of the Afghan jihad who founded the
GIA, the idea of forming an armed group to fight jihad against the
Algerian government was developed not after the coup but in 1989 after
leaders of the Islamic Armed Movement (MIA) of Mustafa Bouyali, were
freed from prison, but was not acted on due to the spectacular
electoral political success of the FIS.
Early in 1992, Mansour Meliani, a former aid to Bouyali, along with
many "Afghans", broke with his former friend Abdelkader Heresay and
left the MIA (Islamic Armed Movement), founding his own Jihadi group
around July 1992. Meliani was arrested in July and executed in August
1993. Meliani was replaced by Mohammed Allal, aka Moh Leveilley, who
was killed on 1 September 1992 by the Algerian military when they
attacked a meeting held to unify command of the jihad.
Leveilley was replaced in January 1993 by Abdelhak Layada, who
declared his group independent of the FIS and MIA and not obedient to
its orders. It adopted the radical Omar El-Eulmi as a spiritual guide,
and Layada affirmed that "political pluralism is equivalent to
sedition". He also believed jihad in
Algeria was fard ayn, or
an individual obligation of adult male Muslims. Layada threatened
not just security forces but journalists ("grandsons of France") and
the families of Algerian soldiers. From its inception on, the GIA
called for and implemented the killing of anyone collaborating with or
supporting the authorities, including government employees such as
teachers and civil servants. Layada did not last long
and was arrested in Morocco in May 1993.
Beside's the GIA, the other major branch of the Algerian resistance
was the Islamic Armed Movement (MIA). It was led by the ex-soldier
"General" Abdelkader Chebouti, and was "well-organized and structured
and favored a long-term jihad" targeting the state and its
representatives and based on a guerrilla campaign like that of the War
of Independence. From prison, Ali Benhadj issued a fatwa giving the
MIA his blessing.
In August 1993, Seif Allah Djafar, aka Mourad Si Ahmed, aka Djafar
al-Afghani, a 30-year-old black marketer with no education beyond
primary school, became GIA amir. Violence escalated under Djafar,
as did the GIA's base of support outside of Algeria.
Under him, the group named and assassinated specific journalists and
intellectuals (such as Tahar Djaout), saying that "The journalists who
Islamism through the pen will perish by the
sword." The GIA explicitly affirmed that it "did not represent
the armed wing of the FIS", and issued death threats against
several FIS and MIA members, including MIA's Heresay and FIS's Kebir
About the time al-Afghani took power of GIA, a group of Algerian
jihadists returning from Afghanistan came to London. Together with
Islamist intellectual Abu Qatada, they started up a weekly magazine,
Usrat al-Ansar as a GIA propaganda outlet.
Abu Qatada "provided the
intellectual and ideological firepower" to justify GIA actions,
and the journal became "a trusted source of news and information about
the GIA for Islamists around the world."
The GIA soon broadened its attacks to civilians who refused to live by
their prohibitions, and then foreigners living in Algeria. A hostage
released on 31 October 1993 carried a message ordering foreigners to
"leave the country. We are giving you one month. Anyone who exceeds
that period will be responsible for his own sudden death." By the
end of 1993 26 foreigners had been killed.
In November 1993 Sheik Mohamed Bouslimani "a popular figure who was
Hamas party of
Mahfoud Nahnah was kidnapped and executed
after "refusing to issue a fatwa endorsing the GIA's tactics."
Djafar was killed February 26, 1994.
Cherif Gousmi, aka Abu Abdallah Ahmed, became amir March 10, 1994.
Under him, the GIA reached its "high water mark", and became the
Islamist force" in Algeria. In May, Islamist
leaders Abderrezak Redjam (allegedly representing the FIS), Mohammed
Said, the exiled Anwar Haddam, and the MEI's Said Makhloufi joined the
GIA; a blow to the FIS and surprise since the GIA had been issuing
death threats against the three since November 1993. This was
interpreted by many observers as either the result of intra-FIS
competition or as an attempt to change the GIA's course from within.
On 26 August, the group declared a "Caliphate", or Islamic government
for Algeria, with Gousmi as Commander of the Faithful, Mohammed
Said as head of government, the US-based Haddam as foreign minister,
and Mekhloufi as provisional interior minister.
However, the very next day Said Mekhloufi announced his withdrawal
from the GIA, claiming that the GIA had deviated from Islam and that
this "Caliphate" was an effort by Mohammed Said to take over the GIA,
and Haddam soon afterwards denied ever having joined it, asserting
Caliphate was an invention of the security services. The GIA
continued attacking its usual targets, notably assassinating artists,
such as Cheb Hasni, and in late August added a new one to its list,
threatening schools which allowed mixed classes, music, gym for girls,
or not wearing hijab with arson. He was killed in combat on September
Djamel Zitouni was the leader of the GIA from 1994–96
Cherif Gousmi was eventually succeeded by Djamel Zitouni who became
GIA head on October 27, 1994. Zitouni, 30-year-old son of a poultry
merchant had very limited religious education but was adept at killing
French citizens. Zitouni extended the GIA's attacks on civilians
to French soil, beginning with the hijacking of Air
France Flight 8969
at the end of December 1994 and continuing with several bombings
and attempted bombings throughout 1995. In
Algeria itself, he
continued likewise, with car bombs, assassinations of musicians,
sportsmen, and unveiled women as well as the usual victims. In
February 1995 it issued a communique ordering that "for every pure
Muslim woman arrested by the government, an apostate's wife would be
executed." Non GIA Islamists such as Muslim Brotherhood members
and Djazarist were condemned as Godless and ordered to repent
"according to a precise procedure". Even at this stage, the
seemingly counterproductive nature of many of its attacks led to
speculation (encouraged by FIS members abroad) that the group had been
infiltrated by Algerian secret services.
The region south of Algiers, in particular, came to be virtually
dominated by the GIA; they called it the "liberated zone". Later it
would be known as the "triangle of death". During this period, judging
from its London-based magazine Al-Ansar, it worked out ever broader
ideological justifications for killing civilians, with the help of
fatwas from such figures as Abu Qatada. [Note 1]
Reports of battles between the AIS and GIA increased (resulting in an
estimated 60 deaths in March 1995 alone), and the GIA reiterated its
death threats against FIS and AIS leaders, claiming to be the "sole
prosecutor of jihad" and angered by their attempts to negotiate a
settlement with the government. On 11 July, they assassinated a
co-founder of FIS, Abdelbaki Sahraoui, in
Paris (although some
question the authenticity of their statement claiming credit for
During the 1995 election, the GIA threatened to kill anyone who voted
(using the slogan "one vote, one bullet"), but turnout was high among
the pious middle class. Soon afterwards, the GIA was shaken by
internal dissension: shortly after the election, its leadership killed
Islamist leaders who had joined the GIA. In December, the GIA killed
the number three figure in the MEI who had returned to the AIS,
Azzedine Baa. In January Abderrezak Redjam announced he wanted to
rejoin the AIS and was killed. The death of Mohammad Said followed in
November 1995. The two men's deaths were not announced in Al-Ansar
journal until mid-December 1995 when the GIA blamed the killings on
the security forces, but a few issues later in January 4 and 11
announced that it had in fact killed the two for being "members of the
heretic djazarist sect" and for plotting a coup d'état. Other
Islamists suggested that they had objected to the GIA's indiscriminate
Considerable uproar and accusations of manipulation of GIA by security
service followed. Militants began "to desert in droves":
Mustapha Kartali, Ali Benhadjar, and Hassan Hattab's factions all
refused to recognize Zitouni's leadership starting around late 1995,
although they would not formally break away until somewhat
later. On May 31, 1996 Al-Ansar suspended publication
demanding an explanation from the GIA, and a week later it and two
other Islamists groups (including the al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt)
announced their withdrawal of support for Zitouni. In the summer of
1996 the GIA finally released a video of two friends of the victims
"`confessing` to the plot and humbly requesting summary execution for
In addition the GIA pledged to fight the AIS as an enemy; particularly
in the west, full-scale battles between them became common. In July
1996, Zitouni was killed probably by
Islamist seeking vengeance for
his killing of Mohammed Said and Abderrazaq Redjem, or by one of
the breakaway factions – Ali Benhadjar's Medea brigade, later to
become the AIS-aligned Islamic League for Da'wa and Jihad – and was
succeeded by Antar Zouabri. Djamel Zitouni had earned
notoriety for such acts as the killing of the seven Monks of Tibhirine
in March, but his successor would prove to be far bloodier.
GIA in France
The Algerian state pursued a number of strategies against the GIA. One
was to encourage
France to take an active part in the fight against
the networks of the GIA in France, and thus to cut off its principal
means of support abroad. To prevent this from happening, brought a
campaign of bombings, hijackings, etc. to France, in hopes the French
government would conclude that "the price of terrorism within France
was too high" and would withdraw its support from the Algerian regime
and "hasten its collapse."
The GIA's first act was to hijack an Air
France Flight 8969, which was
due to fly from
Paris in December 1994. During their hijack
the GIA announced "We are the Soldiers of Mercy". Intelligence
provided by "Omar Nasiri" (a disgruntled GIA member turned
mole) and a police raid of a safe house discovered their plan was
to crash it on Paris, a plan prevented when the
GIGN stormed the plane
The GIA conducted a series of bombings in
France from 1995 to 1996.
Analysis of a bomb with a failed trigger mechanism made it possible to
identify a conspirator, Khaled Kelkal, who was shot and killed by
French gendarmes on 29 September 1995. In late 1999, several GIA
members were convicted by a French court for the 1995 bombing
After the death of Zitouni in 1998, prior to the World Cup,
collaboration with other European countries launched a vast preventive
operation against the GIA. About 100 alleged members of the group were
arrested throughout Europe. In Belgium, security forces seized
weapons, detonators and forged identity papers. On 11 June 1999,
the GIA announced a jihad on French territory in a threatening letter
addressed to the media.
Antar Zouabri and takfir
Antar Zouabri, was the longest serving "emir" (1996–2002) was
nominated by a faction of the GIA "considered questionable by the
others". The 26-year-old activist was a "close confidant" of
Zitouni and continued his policy of "ever increasing violence and
redoubled purges". Zouabri opened his reign as emir by issuing a
manifesto entitled The Sharp Sword, presenting Algerian society as
resistant to jihad and lamented that the majority of the people had
"forsaken religion and renounced the battle against its enemies," but
was careful to deny that the GIA had ever accused Algerian society
itself of impiety (kufr).
Convinced of Zouabri's salafist orthodoxy, Egyptian veteran of the
Abu Hamza restarted the Al-Ansar bulletin/magazine in
London. During the month of Ramadan (January–February 1997)
hundreds of civilians were killed in massacres some with their
throats cut. The massacres continued for months and culminated in
August and September when hundreds of men women and children were
killed in the villages of Rais, Bentalha, Beni Messous. Pregnant women
were sliced open, children were hacked to pieces or dashed against
walls, men's limbs were hacked off one by one, and, as the attackers
retreated, they would kidnap young women to keep as sex slaves.
The GIA issued a communiques signed by Zouabri claiming responsibility
for the massacres and justifying them—in contradiction to his
manifesto—by declaring impious (takfir) all those Algerians who had
not joined its ranks. In London Abu Hamzu criticised the
communique and two days later (September 29) announced the end of his
support and the closure of the bulletin, cutting off GIA's
communication with international
Islamist community and the rest of
the outside world. In Algeria, the slaughters drained the GIA of
popular support (although evidence showed security forces cooperated
with the killers preventing civilians from escaping, and may even have
controlled the GIA). A week earlier the AIS insurgents announced it
would declare a unilateral truce starting in October. These events
marked the end of "organized jihad in Algeria," according to one
source (Gilles Kepel)
Although Zouabri was seldom heard of after this and the jihad
exhausted, massacres "continued unabated" through 1998 led by
independent amirs with added "ingredients of vendetta and local
dispute" to the putative jihad against the government. Armed
groups "that had formerly belonged to the GIA" continued to kill, some
replacing jihad with simple banditry, others settling scores with the
pro-government "patriots" or others, some enlisting themselves in the
services of landowners and frightening illegal occupants off of
In 1999 the "Law on Civil Concord" granting amnesty to fighters was
officially rejected by the GIA but accepted by many rank-and-file
Islamist fighters; an estimated 85 percent surrendered their arms and
returned to civilian life.
Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat
Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) splinter faction
appears to have eclipsed the GIA since approximately 1998 and is
currently assessed by the
CIA to be the most effective armed group
remaining inside Algeria. Both the GIA and GSPC leadership continue to
proclaim their rejection of President Bouteflika's amnesty, but in
contrast to the GIA, the GSPC has stated that it avoids attacks on
Zouabri was himself killed in a gun battle with security forces 9
February 2002. The GIA, torn by splits and desertions and denounced
by all sides even in the
Islamist movement, was slowly destroyed by
army operations over the next few years; by the time of Antar
Zouabri's death it was effectively incapacitated.
In 1999, following the election of a new president, Abdelaziz
Bouteflika, a new law gave amnesty to most guerrillas, motivating
large numbers to "repent" and return to normal life. The violence
declined substantially after
Antar Zouabri was killed in 2002, Rachid
Abou Tourab succeeded him and was allegedly killed by close aides in
July 2004. He was replaced by Boulenouar Oukil. On 7 April 2005, the
GIA was reported to have killed 14 civilians at a fake road block.
Three week later on 29 April, Oukil was arrested. Nourredine
Boudiafi was the last known "emir" of the GIA. He was arrested
sometime in November 2004 and the Algerian government announced his
arrest in early January 2005.
A splinter group of the GIA that formed on the fringes of Kabylie
(north central coast) in 1998, called the Salafist Group for Preaching
and Combat (GSPC), rejected the amnesty. It dissociated itself from
the previous indiscriminate killing of civilians and reverted to the
classic MIA-AIS tactics of targeting combatant forces. This break
away was led by Hassan Hattab. In October 2003, they announced
their support for Al-Qaeda and in 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri
announced a "blessed union" between the two groups. In 2007, the group
changed its name to
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. It has focused on
kidnapping for ransom as a means of raising funds and is estimated to
have raised more than $50 million from 2003-2013.
Claims of Algerian Government involvement
Various claims have been made that the GIA was heavily infiltrated at
top level by agents of Algerian intelligence such as the Département
du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), who drove the organisation
towards excessive violence against civilians in order to undermine its
According to Heba Saleh of
Algerian opposition sources allege that the group may have been
manipulated at times by elements within ruling military and
intelligence circles. A series of massacres in the summer of 1997 - in
which many hundreds of people were killed - took place near Algerian
army barracks, but no-one came to the help of the victims.
Fouad Ajami writing in
The New Republic
The New Republic in 2010: called the GIA "a
bastard child of the encounter between the Islamists and the security
services of the regime." John Schindler in The National Interest
stated, "Much of GIA’s leadership consisted of DRS agents, who drove
the group into the dead end of mass murder"
Another source, journalist Nafeez Ahmed claims that
‘Yussuf-Joseph’—an anonymous 14-year "career secret agent" in
Algeria’s sécurité militaire who defected to Britain in 1997 and
claims to have had access to "all the secret telexes"—told Ahmed
that GIA atrocities were not the work of ‘Islamic extremists’, but
were ‘orchestrated’ by ‘Mohammed Mediane, head of the Algerian
secret service’, and ‘General Smain Lamari’, head of ‘the
counter intelligence agency’ and ... ‘In 1992 Smain created a
special group, L’Escadron de la Mort (the Squadron of Death)… The
death squads organized the massacres … ’ including ‘at least’
two of the bombs in
Paris in summer 1995. That operation was
(allegedly) ‘run by Colonel Souames Mahmoud, alias Habib, head of
the secret service at the Algerian embassy in Paris.’ According to
Ahmed, "Joseph's testimony has been corroborated by numerous defectors
from the Algerian secret services."  (Ahmed also claims that the
"British intelligence believed the Algerian Government was involved in
atrocities, contradicting the view the Government was claiming in
However, according to Andrew Whitley of Human Rights Watch, "It was
clear that armed
Islamist groups were responsible for many of the
killings of both civilians and security force members that had been
attributed to them by the authorities. According to the Shadow
Report on Algeria, Algerians such as Zazi Sadou, have collected
testimonies by survivors that their attackers were unmasked and were
recognised as local radicals - in one case even an elected member of
Mansour Meliani: July 1992, arrested that same month.
Abdelhak Layada: from January 1993 to May 1993
Seif Allah Djafar aka Mourad Si Ahmed, aka Djafar al-Afghani: from
August 1993 until his death February 26, 1994.
Cherif Gousmi aka Abu Abdallah Ahmed: from March 10, 1994 to his death
in combat on September 26, 1994.
Djamel Zitouni: from October 27, 1994 until July 16, 1996.
Antar Zouabri: from 1996 to 9 February 2002.
Rachid Abou Tourab: killed July 2004.
Boulenouar Oukil: arrested 29 April 2005.
Nourredine Boudiafi: arrested sometime in November 2004.
Book: Islamic terrorism
Book: Islamic terrorist groups
Atlas Trappist Monks
^ Abu Qatada's writings and speeches have been critically assessed by
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^ Institute for Counter Terrorism, 2 June 1999 .
^ National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, April
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Abdullah Azzam Brigades
Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
Ansar al-Sharia (Syria)
Ansar al-Sharia (Yemen)
Ansar Bait al-Maqdis
Ansar ul Islam
Army of Conquest
Army of Islam
Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine
Islamic State of Iraq
Islamic State of Iraq
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades
Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin
Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad
Jund Ansar Allah
Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem
Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement
Palestinian Islamic Jihad
Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade
Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn
Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade
Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb
Ansar al-Sharia (Libya)
Ansar al-Sharia (Tunisia)
Ansar Bait al-Maqdis
Armed Islamic Group
Egyptian Islamic Jihad
Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group
Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa
Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat
Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries
Shura Council of Mujahideen in Derna
Tunisian Combatant Group
Abdullah Yusuf Azzam
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Abu Mohammad al-Julani
Osama bin Laden
Abdelhamid Abou Zeid
Lebanese Civil War
Algerian Civil War
Terrorism in Egypt
Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present)
Syrian Civil War
Iraqi Civil War
Libyan Civil War
Yemeni Civil War
ISIL territorial claims
Sexual violence in the Iraqi insurgency
Part of Islamism