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Armed Islamic Group

The Armed Islamic Group (GIA, from French Groupe Islamique Armé) is an Islamic fundamentalist group. The GIA aims to overthrow the secular Algerian regime and replace it with an Islamic state. The GIA began violent activities in 1992 after Algiers voided the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), the largest Islamic opposition party, in the first round of legislative elections in December 1991.

Between 1992 and 1998 the GIA conducted a terrorist campaign of civilian massacres, sometimes wiping out entire villages in its area of operation. Since announcing its campaign against foreigners living in Algeria in 1993, the GIA has killed more than 100 expatriate men and women in the country. The group uses assassinations and bombings, including car bombs, and it is known to favor kidnapping victims and slitting their throats.

The strategy carried out by Algeria was to encourage France to take an active part in the fight against the networks of the GIA in France, and thus to cut the movement of its principal support abroad. The GIA was fighting against the F.I.S - and its armed branch to take over the power in Algeria. Out of Algeria, the GIA was established in France, Belgium, Great Britain, Italy and Sweden.

The GIA hijacked Air France Flight 8969, which was enroute from Algiers to Paris in December 1994. French commandos stormed the plane, preventing it from being crashed into the Eiffel Tower, its intended target. In 1995-96, the GIA conducted a series of bombings in France. The analysis of a bomb whose mechanism of firing did not function made it possible to identify Khaled Kelkal, who was shot on September 29, 1995. In late 1999 several GIA members were convicted by a French court for the 1995 bombings.

In 1998, right before the football world cup, France, in collaboration with the other European countries, launched a vast preventive operation against the GIA. About 100 of supposed members were arrested throughout Europe. In Belgium, the police force seized weapons, detonators and forged identity papers. In June 11, 1999, the GIA announced a jihad on the French territory in a threatening letter addressed to the media.

The Salafi Group for Call 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 limits attacks on civilians.

One of its leading members, Antar Zouabri, was killed by the Algerian Army, at Boufarik, on 08 February 2002.

See also

Islam in France

External link