TIME History

The History of French-Muslim Violence Began in the Streets of Algeria

When the Algerian War ended with a ceasefire in March 1962, LIFE was there to capture both the celebration and the violence

It’s not difficult to situate the horrific massacres in Paris last week— which claimed the lives of 17 victims — within the broader context of terrorism carried out by Islamic extremist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS). But there’s another context in which the attacks should be understood, and it dates back to the 1950s and early ‘60s, when the Algerian War had France fighting to maintain its colonial hold on the North African country, and Algeria fighting for independence.

The chaotic scenes last week echoed a history of violence between the French and the Algerian Muslims who lived under Paris’s rule for more than a century. In the words of Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, “the desperate and permanent crisis in Algerian-French relations” is “like the refusal of a divorced couple to accept an agreed narrative of their sorrow.” Though the Algerian War took place in the middle of the 20th century, its foundation was laid by the 19th century French invasion of Algeria, which was followed by efforts to convert the Muslim population to Christianity. French rule fomented a growing resentment among Algerians that in the 1950s would escalate to revolt.

Though exact death tolls don’t exist, there are estimates that hundreds of thousands to more than a million Algerian Muslims died in the war, with tens of thousands of French military and civilians perishing in the conflict. The peace that followed the ceasefire in 1962 was, as Fisk puts it, “a cold peace in which Algeria’s residual anger, in France as well as in the homeland, settled into long-standing resentment.” Many of the hundreds of thousands of people of Algerian descent living in France today are poor and feel the specter of discrimination in government policies like the 2010 ban on face coverings.

In March 1962, LIFE photographer Paul Schutzer was on the scene in Algiers as the Algerian War came to an end with a tenuous ceasefire and a path to Algerian self-determination. Part of that city witnessed jubilant celebration—a truce had finally been reached between French President Charles de Gaulle and the Muslim-led National Liberation Front. But in other corners of town, a gruesome massacre was underway, as a group of French army officers called the Organisation de l’armée secrète (O.A.S.) in favor of French rule in Algeria killed innocent Muslims in a last-ditch effort—a mutiny of sorts—to thwart independence.

LIFE explained the motivations of the O.A.S.:

A cynical hope underlay the O.A.S. attacks: if by killing innocent people the O.A.S. could provoke all-out communal war, sympathetic elements of the French army might throw in with the Algerian Europeans against the Moslems and even against De Gaulle. But this wretched hope was in vain; retaliating, the French forces boldly struck, while air force jets strafed O.A.S. sniper positions. De Gaulle, “Le Grand Charlie,” had spoken.

The photographs above capture both the celebration and the bloodshed that coincided on the streets of Algiers as one historical chapter ended and another began. And the paradox Schutzer captured on that day — the intersection of violence and peace and a new and complicated independence—reverberates even today.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME foreign affairs

Three Reasons France Became a Target for Jihad

Global Reaction To The Terrorist Attack On French Newspaper Charlie Hebdo
Carsten Koall—Getty Images Papers with 'I am Charlie' displayed are left near candles at a vigil in front of the French Embassy following the terrorist attack in Paris on Jan. 7, 2015 in Berlin.

John R. Bowen is a Professor of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis.

The country has long and tangled history with the Muslim world and organized religion

Jihad seems to hit France harder than other countries, with more than 1,000 young people leaving to fight on the side of ISIS or other jihadis in Iraq and Syria, and now the murderous attack by two men of Algerian descent on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Why, and where will this latest attack lead?

There are three points to keep in mind as we watch the investigations play out.

First, France has been more closely engaged with the Muslim world longer than any other Western country. Since 1830, when it conquered Algeria, it has seen much of Muslim Africa as its own backyard. And after World War I, France took control of Syria and Lebanon as well. Many French settled in North Africa, and after World War II, many North Africans came to France to work in new factories, most settling in poor areas in Paris, Lyon, and the industrialized north. In the post-industrial era, factories were shut down but the settlers stayed. And it is their children and grandchildren who in 2005 exploded in rage over their exclusion from French society. The 1995 movie La Haine showed this rage before the fact—and also made clear that these explosions had nothing to with religion.

France left Algeria only at the end of a long and bloody war, from 1954 to 1962, which continues to reverberate throughout the country, especially in the south, where Algerians who fought on both sides of the war settled in Provence and kept the conflict alive. Here is where the far-right National Front was founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen, a paratrooper nourishing anger against De Gaulle’s “abandonment” of French Algeria. His daughter Marine now leads the party.

But unlike other European colonial powers, the French never really left their former colonies, continuing to intervene economically and militarily to defend France’s national interests in Africa and the Near East. Now this means battling al Qaeda and ISIS in Mali, Iraq, and, perhaps in the future, Syria. So when disaffected young men and women tune in to jihadi web sites, they find French-speaking Muslims telling them of the sins their government is committing against their “brothers and sisters” in Iraq and Syria. Resentment at French racism, at the series of largely symbolic measures taken against Muslims, such as the 2010 ban on wearing face-veils in public, add to this anger, and lead some towards fighting.

Second, the French Republic has nourished a sense of combat with the Church—which for some means with religion of any sort. If in the 19th century, the Church retained its hold on young minds through its monopoly of primary schools, by the end of that century the state had built a secular and free system of schools. Thereafter, the Dreyfus affair pitted an openly anti-Semitic Catholic establishment against pro-Republican intellectuals, Vichy gave powers to anti-Jewish French officials, and after the war schools continued to be the focal point, a microcosm, of the battle between religious and secularist camps.

Modern France thus produced a strong tradition, especially in Paris, of opposition to organized religion, and satire of its pretensions. Charlie Hebdo succeeded a long line of satirical magazines that ridiculed religion, and Charlie took down all with pretensions: Christians, Muslims, Michael Jackson—everyone.

Third, the attack risks to add fuel to the rise of the Far Right in France and throughout Europe. The National Front is already spinning the attack as showing up the basic incompatibility of Islam and the values of France. Even as its leader, Marine Le Pen, the much smoother political heir to her father, Jean-Marie, maintains a moderate line, officially stating that France was united for freedom of expression, she added that “the time for hypocrisy was over,” and that not confusing Islam with terrorism not ought to lead us to deny the obvious. Some of her lieutenants went further, attacking Islam directly, and the immediate commentators to Le Monde’s on-line coverage overwhelmingly took this line: anti-religion and anti-Islam.

France will not change its decades-old foreign policy, nor are rights and practices of satire likely to fade away. But the main impact may be to use the attacks as an excuse to blame Islam and immigration for broad anxieties about where things are going in Europe today. Such a confusion can only strengthen the far right.

John R. Bowen is a Professor of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, and author of Can Islam be French, Blaming Islam, and the forthcoming Shari’a in Britain.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Algeria

France Confirms No Survivors in Air Algerie Plane Crash

Air Algerie Plane Crash Mali Algiers Algeria Burkina Faso
AFP/Getty Images French soldiers stand by the wreckage of the Air Algerie flight AH5017 which crashed in Mali's Gossi region, west of Gao, on July 24, 2014.

Cause of the crash still unknown, but French officials suspect bad weather to blame

President François Hollande of France confirmed Friday that there were no survivors from Flight AH5017 that crashed carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algiers. The wreckage of the plane was found Thursday in Mali, according to officials.

Both of the plane’s black boxes have been recovered and as yet, the cause of the crash remains unknown.

The Air Algerie commercial plane lost contact with controllers early Thursday an hour after it took off, as it headed into a rainstorm. The wreckage was found near the border of Burkina Faso, a presidential aide for Burkina Faso told the Associated Press.

“They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered,” he said.

France’s Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, told RTL radio that the aircraft most likely crashed because of the storm, though he added that terrorist groups are operational in the area where the plane was found.

Nearly half of the people on the flight were French. The passengers aboard included 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two Luxembourg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian, officials said. “If this catastrophe is confirmed, it would be a major tragedy that hits our entire nation, and many others,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters. French officials do not believe that extremists in Mali have the weaponry necessary to have shot down the plane at cruising altitude.

This is the latest in several major flight disasters in the last week: a Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down last Thursday while flying over a tumultuous section of Ukraine, and a Taiwanese jet crashed during a storm Wednesday killing 48 people. Travelers have become increasingly nervous about flying as U.S. and European airlines have been selectively canceling flights to Israel after a rocket landed near the airport in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, a Malaysian airline flight carrying 239 people that disappeared in March has yet to be found.

[AP]

TIME Disasters

No, Fidel Castro’s Niece Wasn’t on the Algerian Plane

Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 2014.
Franklin Reyes—AP Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 2014.

"I’m alive and kicking"

Multiple news outlets reported Thursday that Cuban President Raul Castro’s daughter—Fidel Castro’s niece—was on the Air Algérie flight that disappeared earlier in the day, citing information from the airport in Burkina Faso. Mariela Castro, a sexologist and gay rights activist, is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education.

But she wasn’t on the flight.

“I’m at a meeting, happy and healthy,” she told the television network TeleSUR. “I’m alive and kicking.”

The Facebook post which appeared to have first reported the news was later deleted.

 

 

TIME Algeria

Air Algérie Flight Disappears Over Mali With Over 110 Aboard

France's Foreign Minister said Flight AH5017 "probably crashed"

Air Algérie said Thursday it lost contact during the night with an Algiers-bound flight from Burkina Faso carrying more than 110 people.

The Algerian national airliner said in a statement to the Algerian news agency APS that the flight, AH5017, took off from Ouagadougou at 1:17 a.m. GMT and was supposed to land in Algiers at 5:11. But the airline lost contact with the plane about 50 minutes into the flight, though the exact timing remains unclear amid differing reports.

Heather Jones for TIME

French President François Hollande, who cancelled his planned trip to the French island Réunion, said in a televised address that 51 French citizens were on the flight ahead of a connection in Algiers. In his statement, which followed an emergency meeting with top ministers, he said that “everything suggests that this plane crashed.”

He said that France, which has spearheaded an international military intervention in Mali against Islamic extremists in the north of the country, will deploy “all the military means that we have on location in Mali” to find the plane.

The French President said that at 1:48 a.m. the crew signaled that it was changing its route because of particularly difficult weather conditions. A Twitter account that appears to belong to the Algerian airline said in a tweet that the plane would have crashed in the region of Tilemsi about 70 km (43 miles) from the city of Gao in northern Mali.

The airline told APS early Thursday that the plane was carrying 119 passengers and 7 crewmembers of Spanish nationality, though officials have provided slightly varying numbers. In a separate statement, Swiftair, the Spanish private airline company that owns the plane, said that the plane was carrying 116 people, including 110 passengers and 6 crewmembers. Swiftair said the plane was an MD-83 operated by Air Algeria.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that 51 French citizens were on the flight. The Twitter account that appears to belong to the Algerian airline said in a tweet that there were also passengers from at least 13 other countries, and an Air Algérie representative told reporters in Burkino Faso that all of the passengers on the plane were in transit, according to Reuters.

The plane disappeared in rough weather over Mali. Data from weather satellites show that there may have been storms in the plane’s flightpath:

 

TIME France

French Terror Suspect ‘Plotted Bombing the Eiffel Tower and Louvre’

The words "With the Syrians" are displayed on the Eiffel Tower in support of Syrians on the third anniversary of the conflict, in Paris
Benoit Tessier—Reuters The words "With the Syrians" are displayed on the Eiffel Tower in Paris on March 15, 2014, in support of Syrians on the third anniversary of the conflict that has claimed more than 140,000 lives. On July 9, 2014, French police revealed transcripts of encrypted messages from a French jihadist who planned to target the Eiffel Tower and other French landmarks.

Revelations come as France's Interior Minister attempts to build support for a controversial antiterrorism bill

A French jihadist was plotting to bomb renowned Paris tourist attractions such as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, according to intercepted messages he sent al-Qaeda operatives revealed on Wednesday.

A 29-year-old butcher of Algerian descent, only known as Ali M, was sending encrypted emails to a senior member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) for over a year, reports the French daily Le Parisien.

When Ali M was asked how he would “conduct jihad in the place you are currently,” he suggested targeting nuclear power plants, several landmarks including the Eiffel Tower and “cultural events that take place in the south of France in which thousands of Christians gather for a month,” the Telegraph reports.

“The main walkways become black with people and a simple grenade can injure dozens of people, not to mention a booby-trapped device,” he said.

AQIM suggested that the butcher receive training in military techniques in the desert of southern Algeria prior to undertaking the attacks, but French officers detained him in June 2013, one week before his planned departure. Authorities then set about decoding the encrypted messages.

Ali M’s lawyer, Daphne Pugliesi, told Le Parisien that the butcher had been recruited and brainwashed by AQIM and that his “arrest has been a relief for him.” Ali M is still detained and awaiting trial for “criminal association,” according to France 24.

The transcripts were revealed as France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve attempts to build support for controversial new antiterrorism legislation that would prevent French nationals from traveling abroad if they are suspected of joining the wars in Syria or Iraq. The bill would also crack down on jihad-recruitment efforts online.

Authorities say that 800 French nationals have already gone to Syria since the start of the conflict in March 2011; many have either returned to France or are planning to do so in the future, Radio France Internationale reports.

TIME Algeria

Algerian Military Plane Crash Kills 102, Leaves 1 Survivor

Algeria Plane Crash
Mohamed Ali—AP A man watches rescue workers working at the wreckage of Algerian military transport aircraft after it slammed into a mountain in the country’s rugged eastern region, Feb. 11, 2014. A civil defense official said 102 people on board were killed but one person managed to survive. The U.S.-built C-130 Hercules transport crashed about noon near the town of Ain Kercha, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Constantine, the main city in eastern Algeria.

The C-130 flight was reportedly carrying soldiers and their families when it went down in a mountainous area in bad weather, and all were feared dead for hours until Algerian authorities found a sole survivor among the wreckage

Updated: 11:30 a.m.

A military plane carrying members of the Algerian armed forces and their relatives crashed in the mountainous northeast of the country Tuesday, killing all but one of the 103 people aboard the flight, according to local reports. Rescue crews searching through the wreckage found a sole survivor hours after the crash, according to an Algerian civil defense commander.

The plane, believed to be a Hercules C-130, crashed in the mountainous Oum El Bouaghi province roughly 240 miles east of Algiers. A source told Ennahar radio there were no survivors, according to the BBC. The flight had been en route from Ouargla in southern Algeria to Constantine in the northeast, with 99 passengers and four crew members.

The army has not yet officially confirmed the crash.

[BBC]

This post has been updated to reflect the discovery of one survivor.

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