Algeria's old warriors demand the whole truth: Former FLN comrades of the murdered president gathered at his grave in an Algiers cemetery to pay their last respects. Robert Fisk was there
The words floated over the pile of brown clay and dying wreaths under which lay the last mortal remains of Algeria's assassinated president. And the anciens combattants of the old FLN, the gunmen and bombers and couriers who more than 30 years ago freed their land from General Massu's paras, raised their right hands by the grave and said, firmly and loudly: 'I do.'
Age confers dignity and gentleness upon the most ruthless men and women. White-haired, head bowed in homage to his dead leader, Omar Boudaoud looked like just another old soldier, the kind of stooped figure you might see by an English war memorial any Remembrance Sunday. Yet Mr Boudaoud was the man who led the FLN inside France, who organised the blowing-up of fuel dumps, the derailing of a train at Cagnes-sur-Mer, the killing of four gendarmes in Lyons and who raised pounds 500,000 a year for the FLN.
Can men with so bloody an inheritance expect the truth? There was Abu Bakr Belkaid, for instance, freedom fighter, fellow inmate with Boudiaf of Fresnes prison in 1956, mourning the lost opportunities of Algeria. 'Things are more serious now,' he said. 'President Boudiaf was clean - he had been in exile, far from the establishment, before he became our leader. He came here to modernise our country, to give us a clear path. Yes, I hope we will know the truth about his martyrdom. But will we?'
Mme Boudiaf was there; she who said only last week that she did not think 'for a single moment' that the Islamic Salvation Front had murdered her husband. Cloaked in green and white, face hidden behind dark glasses, she stood before the pile of earth, then embraced Mr Belkaid and sobbed in his arms.
There were tombs in the same row as Boudiaf's grave, each containing an honoured warrior. Their names were inscribed without comment or verbal homage, as if they had died old and revered. You needed memory and a history book to understand the meaning.
There was Larbi Ben M'Hidi (murdered by French paratroopers in March 1957). There was Ferhat Abbas (exiled by his own FLN). There was Abane Ramdane (brutally murdered, probably strangled, in 1957 by his FLN colleagues near Tangiers). There was Belkacem Krim (FLN Evian negotiator, strangled in Germany in 1970, probably on Boumedienne's orders). With so many bullet-smashed bones and broken necks inside these graves, could anyone expect to learn the truth about el-Alia cemetery's newest martyr?
Of course, those who gathered in the graveyard yesterday had been brave as well as savage men. But their legacy of fratricidal bloodshed gave to their patriotism something infinitely pathetic, even tragic. Beneath the trees opposite Boudiaf's grave, Yamina Benacer of the 'Association des Militants de la Federation de France pour le FLN' was handing round a petition. An arms courier between 1954 and 1962 - so patriotic she returned to Algeria in 1963, so Francophone she cannot read Arabic - she asked each ancien combattant to sign his name, wartime rank and address on a sheet of paper headed: 'We want to discover the truth about the assassination of Mohamed Boudiaf.'
Behind the gravestones was a clutch of soldiers, a few blue-uniformed policemen and a scattering of unshaven young men in jeans holding sub-machine-guns, ammunition clips in their trouser belts - for security, of course. Just like the bodyguards who protected Boudiaf in Annaba last month, one of whom shot him in the back.
Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'
It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959
Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas
...and the perfect time to visit them
Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result
- 1 iPhone 6 review: bigger, thinner, faster, brighter - Apple proves you can make the best better
- 2 Sports Direct security guard allegedly banned Jewish schoolboys and told them: 'No Jews, no Jews'
- 3 Watch a man race the Circle line - and win
- 4 Pakistani passenger power forces two politicians off plane
- 5 Kanye West halts concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
Sports Direct security guard allegedly banned Jewish schoolboys and told them: 'No Jews, no Jews'
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time: 'That was the lowest I'd ever felt'
Richard III: Two years after his body was found scientists discover how he died
Scottish independence exclusive: Millions of banknotes sent to Scotland in case Yes vote sparks run on ATMs
£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Maths teachers for short-term cover, l...