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The Battle of Algiers-- The truth behind one of the bloodiest wars fought on the African Continent

Algerian Resistance Against the French

The Rise of Colonial Power in Algeria
Algerian Resistance Against the French
A Newly Gained Independence
Present Day, Post Colonial Algeria
Gillo Pontecorvo - The Battle Of Algiers (1965)


   In November 1954, the Algerians began to retaliate against the French colonial powers, thus engaging the Algerians into a brutish war of Independence.  This war for Independence was the first armed struggle by African people against European monarchy.  This war is a historic and heroic milestone in the de-colonization of third world countries.
    The Berbers (the Algerians) took matters into their own hands, and the National Liberation Front (FLN), gained support from almost every native Algerian.  At this point, the FLN launched guerilla-style armed rebellion against the rather superior French forces, this included massacres of French, bombing, and the stealing of French supplies.
    On the morning of All Saints' Day (November 1st), in 1954 guerilla fighters a launch various attacks across Algeria, against military installations, warehouses, communications facilities, and police stakeouts, and many checkpoints, in which Algerians were required to pass through to gain access to other parts of the city (Algiers).  On the same morning, the FLN made a proclamation which emanated from Cairo, in which they proclaimed responsibility for the explosions and called for the "restoration of the Algerian State" by all Algerian Muslims.  The FLN also stated in this historic broadcast that Algeria must be restored "within the framework of the principles of Islam."
    At the start of the conflict only twenty thousand FLN guerilla fighters defended their ground against nearly a million 'professional' French soldiers and colon irregular forces, whom desperately tried to keep the Algerian lands as a French colony.  The Algerians were determined to win, and were not about to let the French take control of the land that was theirs; however, the French troops were just as relentless as the FLN resistance, and fought with an iron fist.  They did not hesitate at any point to iniate brutal attacks in retaliation.  The French tortured villagers, massacred civilians with no reason, and destroyed entire villages; these were the favored techniques of warfare.
    By 1958, just four years after the initial conflict began with the creation of the National Liberation Front, it was very evident that the French were losing this brutal conflict.  Within the French government of the Fourth Government, a rebellion occurred; The Fourth Republic was overthrown by Charles de Gaulle.  Charles de Gaulle instituted this revolution because he used the Fourth Republic as a scapegoat to why the French were loosing.  When in reality the French were losing the war because of their unsuccessful fighting technique, the FLN's great knowledge of the fighting lands, and basic wit (the FLN's attacking with things such as undercover bombings and hiding was very successful).
    The FLN began to spread throughout the entire country of Algeria; In the early months of the war, fighting and rebellion occurred solely in the city of Algiers.  As the war progressed and the FLN's campaign and influence caught those in the country, many people sold their holdings in farm land and moved into the safety of the city.  Thus mobilizing more revolutionaries within Algiers and enabling the FLN to act with greater force and stamina.
    It was in the best interests of the Muslims and Algerians in the outskirts of the city and countryside to move into Algiers, because of the Colon vigilante units.  The Colon vigilante units conducted unauthorized programs and activities, including, ratonnades, or 'rat hunts', in which they found and killed Muslim citizens who were suspected members of the FLN.  This group in 1957-1958 also initiated a state of emergency throughout Algeria, though the area was already a place of destruction, and imposed capital punishment on all who were involved in crimes of political motive.
     We cannot be biased and look only at the atrocities of the French and Colon vigilante forces, the FLN in their own respect committed massacres of equivalent measure.  In August 1955 near the city of Phillippeville, The FLN was instructed to attack only military and government property.  Instead, the commander took drastic escalation and killed 123 civilians; men, women, and children.    This was the height of escalation, because in retaliation over 12,000 Muslims were murdered and 1,273 guerilla fighters lost their lives.
          As the war progressed from a simple conflict and uprising in the city of Algiers against the French, the FLN’s Army, the ALN, successfully applied hundreds of hit and run missions; a standard in guerilla warfare.  These hit and run missions consisted of the ALN ambushing and/or completing night raids (they wanted to avoid direct contact) on military encampments, army patrols, farms, mines, and factories.  The FLN, was not glorious, they often killed civilians or Muslim people who would not grant their support.  Kidnappings were also a common occurrence, due to the questioned support of these people or the fear that they may be working for the French. 
    As the fighting progressed, and the war saw less of an end in the near future, the French took even more drastic steps to 'put the FLN in its place' and regain Algeria as a colony.  In late 1957, French General Raoul Salan,  decided to divide Algeria as a whole into 4 sections; this system was known as quadrilisge.  Troops were then assigned to a specific location, in which they were responsible for stopping rebel attacks.  Salan also instituited heavily covered borders, to stop the transportation of people and goods from Morocco and Tunisia, Algeria's allies and neighbors.
     As stated before, the French were becoming desperate in fighting off the guerilla attackers, thus the French initiated more programs to stop Algerians from harboring FLN cooperatives and Muslims.  Aerial bombardment was used on rural villages and more than 2 million Algerians were removed from their homes and moved to camps closer to the city of Algeria, so they could be more closely monitored by the French. (These relocations and aerial bombardments occurred from 1957 through 1960)

    Charles de Gaulle had recently overthrown France's Forth Republic, and was now in control of the French forces on the Algerian front, did not want another pullout like that of that happened in Indochina (Vietnam).  De Gaulle, as well as other French officials were hoping to win the supportive of Muslims in Algeria because of their liking of his public policy and reign in the late 1950s (1957-1958).  De Gaulle tried to threaten the FLN with this fact that they had lost support; because many Muslims wanted De Gaulle to end the war, because they were tired of fighting, and were not as 'pro-Algerian freedom', like the native Berbers.

    It was in 1958, that the French came the closest they would in the entirety of the war, to winning.  France’s system of dividing regions of Algeria into quadrilidges was very successful in its own respect, because of the massive search-and-destroy missions that were carried out.  France was very close to having Algeria as a colony once again; France had taken military control as FLN and ALN forces dwindled and casualties increased.  However, political developments and peace talks began in 1959, soon halting the war and the Algerian’s struggle.

    Even though France was close to winning the conflict in Algeria, problems with in the French government destroyed their stamina as a nation and their ability to wage a successful military campaign against Algeria.  During this time period, 1959 (as we progress closer to the end of the war), opposition to the war was growing in French society.  Many larger nations of the international communities had relinquished thier colonies, and France was urged to free Algeria.  De Gaulle changed his viewpoint on the war, thus leaving the colon troops to feel that they were abandoned and betrayed.  The colon troops then rebelled against de Gaulle in 1960.

     That following May, in 1961, fighting and tensions between the Algerians and the French slowly died down because of a lack of troops and military supplies, however, civilian attacks continued against the French.  Finally peace negotiations/talks began that May.  An official cease-fire was granted and would take effect on March, 19, 1962.

     The agreement known as the Evian Accords were signed.  It allowed the colons eqaul legal protection as well as Algerians.   It outlined and allowed them to participate in public affaris, cultural rights, civil rights, and respect of property (because they were now living as foreignors in independent Algiera, and would no long have France to protect them). 

     In sum, The Battle of Algiers was one of the bloodiest fights that occurred on the continent of Algeria.  It was a triumph for the citizens of Algeria, gaining them independence and a tragic loss for France, for they had lost a highly prized and valuable colony of nearly a hundred years. 


Casualties...By the Numbers


The following casualites are estimates released by the French and FLN.


The French estimated total casualties at 300,000.


The FLN estimated casualities much higher, 1.5 million, however, this was never acknowledged by the French and U.N.


Countless innumerable casualties were incurred by Muslims who were killed during rattonades or who were "Pro-France" and murdered in the years following independence.


Over 2 million Algerian citizens were relocated from their homes into concentration camps by the French.


(Sources on last page)


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Created by 8th Period Gifted II
Brandywine Heights High School
Weston Fillman
Lauren Fairchild
Alex Wiltrout
Ashlan Luft

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