During the Second World War he served in the Free French army, and was decorated for bravery. He was one of the founding members of the Front de Libération Nationale. He was arrested by the French in 1956 and spent until 1962 in prison.
After Algeria's independence was recognised, he became Prime Minister, and was later elected President. He was deposed by Houari Boumedienne in 1965, and put under house arrest until 1980, when he was exiled. He was allowed to return in 1990, but has remained outside politics.
See also: List of Presidents of Algeria