Algeria. January, which coincided with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, became the bloodiest of the year. According to Algerian press, about 2,000 people (most civilians) were killed in a series of massacres. During the rest of the year, the violence continued. Civilians were shot, throats cut or burned to death in their homes. Market visitors were blown up in pieces of bombs hidden in vegetable baskets or in slaughtered animals. At the same time, the armed forces’ efforts against the militant Islamists were stepped up and a large number of Islamists were killed.
It is still unclear who or who is behind the massacres. During the year, several MPs demanded that independent investigations be appointed, that foreign mediators be allowed to intervene and that the state of emergency be lifted. The government rejected the claims, but during the year delegations from the EU and the UN visited the country to gather knowledge about the violence. However, they were not allowed to meet representatives of the opposition. In September, the UN delegation presented a report blaming the Islamists for most of the violence and urging the world community to support the Algerian government. The human rights organization Amnesty International criticized the report, claiming that the government and the military are behind many murders in order to discredit Islamists.
According to Countryaah, the capital of Algeria is Algiers. President Liamine Zeroual announced in September that he will resign in February 1999, almost two years before his term expires. His explanation was that he wanted to accelerate the development of democracy, but judges believed that the military forced him away because he cooperated with moderate Islamist groups. Presidential elections will be held in April 1999. Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia resigned in December following criticism of his handling of the country’s economy and of the conflict with the Islamists. He was succeeded by Senator Ismail Hamdani, former ambassador to Paris, who will lead a transitional government until the presidential election.
In May, 30 of the country’s political parties were banned in accordance with a new law aimed at parties based on, among other things, religious, ethnic, linguistic or regional affiliation. The contradictions between the country’s government and the Berber minority escalated. The Barbican singer Matub Lunis was murdered in June, probably by militant Islamists because he had been very critical of both the Islamists and the government. The murder was followed by riots in the country’s Barbican, where several people were killed. A few weeks later, a new law was introduced imposing restrictions on the use of Berber languages and French. The Berbers reacted with new protests.