Algerian rebel group claims assassination

The message came from the Algerian Jihad Islamic Front - loosely associated to the banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) that stood to win 1992's cancelled Algerian elections - and it was as was chilling as it was boastful.

"The Mujahedin in the cause of Allah in Algeria have lately executed a brilliant military operation against a notorious enemy of Islam and Muslims - the late Abdelhaq Benhamouda, a prominent Communist Union leader, killing him and his two bodyguards, praise be to Allah!"

Benhamouda, a secular enemy of Algeria's Islamist opposition, was indeed shot dead in a central Algerian square. A personal friend and adviser to President Liamine Zeroual, his assassination had originally been blamed on the more extreme Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

But Benhamouda was a political enemy of the FIS and the communique of the armed group makes no secret of its responsibility.

"The efficiency and 'professionalism' of the operation has startled the enemy," it says. "Fear has taken possession of their feelings. The junta generals and their acolytes were sobbing during Benhamouda's burial and broke into tears."

Tears, of course, have become an over-used currency in the latest stage of Algeria's war. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan - marked by a bloodbath of throat-cuttings, beheadings, car bombs and even baby-strangling - cost the lives of at least 300 people, almost all civilians, many of them women.

With the prime minister himself admitting at least 80,000 dead since 1992 - the real figure may be nearer 100,000 - President Zeroual's promise of early elections has offered little real hope of an end to the slaughter. Although legislative elections are to be held on 29 May and 5 June, the FIS will not be allowed to participate; the new constitution bans all parties based on religion, but those Islamic groups which support the government will be allowed to take part in the elections - under a different name.

The president's promise to "eradicate" the armed Islamist groups has been followed by a major military offensive this week against rebels in the Tamesguida district, a wild and hilly area in the north-eastern Medea province where - if the Algerian press are to be believed - up to 60 Islamists were killed.

For several months, the government has been relying on "self-defence" units made up of local villagers to combat the Islamists - it is principally their families who have been subjected to the wave of throat-cuttings - but this week the Algerian army was once again sent into action.

Helicopter gunships were used to fire rockets into the forests of Medea as part of the latest offensive, the first wholesale military operation since an attack on Islamists around Ein Defla two years ago. Since 24 January, 170 guerrillas have been killed, according to President Zeroual.

The FIS, however, continues to hold the authorities responsible for the slaughter in the villages south of Algiers, claiming that the GIA has been infiltrated by the Algerian intelligence services who are provoking the massacres.

The printed admission of Benhamouda's murder - in a newsletter which regularly demands the release from captivity of the three FIS leaders, Abassi Madani, Ali Belhaj and Abdelkader Hashani - says that the authorities "want us to believe that Mujahedin are only capable of mass killings, 'barbaric' massacres: car bombing, throat-cuttings, women's breasts and the cutting of men's testicles and all sorts of body mutilations ...

"Everyone knows that these atrocious crimes are taking place in pro-Islamic areas, in Blida, Medea and Algiers suburbs, against natural supporters of the Islamic Movement ...

"These crimes are the work of the secret service and the militias whose recruits are paranoid drug addicts ..."

But there is no doubt from this message that the horrors inflicted on civilians in the name of Islam are rubbing off on the FIS as well as the GIA.

"It is forbidden, in Islam, to kill innocents, women, children and the elderly, to mutilate or torture," the statement goes on, adding that "the Mujahedin disavowed, again and again, these unlawful and un-Islamic acts".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas