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The Algerian Revolution (Arabic: ?????? ?????????? Al-Thawra Al-Jaz?’iriyya; French: Guerre d'Algérie, "Algerian War") was a conflict between France and Algerian independence movements from 1954 to 1962, which led to Algeria gaining its independence from France. An important decolonization war, it was a complex conflict characterized by guerrilla warfare, maquis fighting, terrorism against civilians, the use of torture on both sides, and counter-terrorism operations by the French Army. The conflict was also a civil war between loyalist Algerians who believed in a French Algeria and their insurrectionist Algerian Muslim counterparts. Effectively started by members of the National Liberation Front (FLN) on November 1, 1954, during the Toussaint Rouge ("Red All Saints' Day"), the conflict shook the foundations of the French Fourth Republic (1946–58) and led to its eventual collapse.
The war involved a large number of rival movements which fought against each other at different moments, such as on the independence side, when the National Liberation Front (FLN) fought viciously against the Algerian National Movement (MNA) in Algeria and in the Café Wars on the French mainland; on the pro-French side, during its final months, when the conflict evolved into a civil war between pro-French hardliners in Algeria and supporters of General Charles de Gaulle. The French Army split during two attempted coups, while the right-wing Organisation de l'armée secrète (OAS) fought against both the FLN and the French government's forces.
Under directives from Guy Mollet's French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) government and from François Mitterrand, who was minister of the interior, the French Army initiated a campaign of "pacification" of what was considered at the time to be a full part of France. This "public-order operation" quickly grew to a full-scale war. Algerians, who had at first largely favored a peaceful resolution, turned increasingly toward the goal of independence, supported by Arab countries and, more generally, by worldwide opinion fueled by anti-colonialist ideas. Meanwhile, the French were divided on the issues of "French Algeria" (l'Algérie Française), specifically, concerning whether to keep the status-quo, negotiate a status intermediate between independence and complete integration in the French Republic, or allow complete independence. The French army finally obtained a military victory in the war, but the situation had changed, and Algerian independence could no longer be forestalled.
Because of the instability in France, the French Fourth Republic was dissolved. Charles de Gaulle returned to power during the May 1958 crisis and subsequently founded the Fifth Republic with his Gaullist followers. De Gaulle's return to power was supposed to ensure Algeria's continued occupation and integration with the French Community, which had replaced the French Union and brought together France's colonies. However, de Gaulle progressively shifted in favor of Algerian independence, purportedly seeing it as inevitable. De Gaulle organized a vote for the Algerian people. The Algerians chose independence, and France engaged in negotiations with the FLN, leading to the March 1962 Evian Accords, which resulted in the independence of Algeria.
After the failed April 1961 Algiers putsch, organized by generals hostile to the negotiations headed by Michel Debré's Gaullist government, the OAS (Organisation de l'armée secrète), which grouped various opponents of Algerian independence, initiated a campaign of bombings. It also initiated peaceful strikes and demonstrations in Algeria in order to block the implementation of the Evian Accords and the exile of the pieds-noirs (Algerians of European origin). Ahmed Ben Bella, who had been arrested in 1956 along with other FLN leaders, became the first President of Algeria.
To this day, the war has provided an important strategy frame for counter-insurgency thinkers, while the use of torture by the French Army has provoked a moral and political debate on the legitimacy and effectiveness of such methods. This debate is far from being settled because torture was used by both sides.
The Algerian war was a founding event in modern Algerian history. It left long-standing scars in both French and Algerian societies and continues to affect some segments of society in both countries. It was not until June 1999, 37 years after the conclusion of the conflict, that the French National Assembly officially acknowledged that a "war" had taken place, while the Paris massacre of 1961 was recognized by the French state only in October 2001. On the other hand, the Oran massacre of 1962 by the FLN has also not yet been recognized by the Algerian state. Relations between France and Algeria are still deeply marked by this conflict and its aftermath.
Conquest of Algeria
On the pretext of a slight to their consul, the French invaded Algiers in 1830. Directed by Marshall Bugeaud, who became the first Governor-General of Algeria, the conquest was violent, marked by a "scorched earth" policy designed to reduce the power of the Dey; this included massacres, mass rapes, and other atrocities. Applauding Bugeaud's method, liberal thinker Alexis de Tocqueville could declare: "War in Africa is a science. Everyone is familiar with its rules and everyone can apply those rules with almost complete certainty of success. One of the greatest services that Field Marshal Bugeaud has rendered his country is to have spread, perfected and made everyone aware of this new science."
In 1834, Algeria became a French military colony and, in 1848, was declared by the constitution of 1848 to be an integral part of French territory and divided into three French departments (Algiers, Oran and Constantine). After Algeria was divided into the French departments, many French and other Europeans (Spanish, Italians, Maltese, and others) began to settle in Algeria.
Under the Second Empire (1852–1871), the Code de l'indigénat (Indigenous Code) was implemented by the Sénatus consulte of July 14, 1865. It allowed Muslims to apply for full French citizenship, a measure that few took, since it involved renouncing the right to be governed by sharia law in personal matters and was considered a kind of apostasy. Its first article stipulated
: "The indigenous Muslim is French; however, he will continue to be subjected to Muslim law. He may be admitted to serve in the army (armée de terre) and the navy (armée de mer). He may be called to functions and civil employment in Algeria. He may, on his demand, be admitted to enjoyed the rights of a French citizen; in this case, he is subjected to the political and civil laws of France." (for French original, see below)
However, until 1870, fewer than 200 demands were registered by Muslims and 152 by Jewish Algerians. The 1865 decree was then modified by the 1870 Crémieux decrees, which granted French nationality to Jews living in one of the three Algerian departments. In 1881, the Code de l'Indigénat made the discrimination official by creating specific penalities for indigenes and organizing the seizure or appropriation of their lands.
After the World War II, equality of rights was proclaimed by the Ordonnance of March 7, 1944 and later confirmed by the Loi Lamine Guèye of May 7, 1946, which granted French citizenship to all the subjects of France's territories and overseas departments, and by the 1946 Constitution. The Law of September 20, 1947 granted French citizenship to all Algerian subjects, who were not required to renounce their Muslim personal status.
Algeria was unique to France because, unlike all other overseas possessions acquired by France during the 19th century, only Algeria was considered an integral part of France in the same manner that Alaska and Hawaii are considered states in the United States of America, despite their geographic distance from the mainland.
Both native and European Algerians took part in World War I, fighting for France. Natives as tirailleurs (such regiments were created as early as 1842) and spahis ; and French settlers as Zouaves or Chasseurs d'Afrique. With Wilson's 1918 proclamation of the Fourteen Points, whose fifth point proclaimed: "A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined", some Algerian intellectuals—dubbed oulémas began to nurture the desire for independence or, at least, autonomy and self-rule.
Within this context, Hadj Abd el-Kadir, (grandson of Abd el-Kadir, spearheaded the resistance against the French in the first half of the 20th century. He was a member of the directing committee of the French Communist Party (PCF)). In 1926, he founded the Étoile Nord-Africaine (North African Star) party, to which Messali Hadj, also a member of the PCF and of its affiliated trade union, the Confédération générale du travail unitaire (CGTU), joined the following year.
The North African Party broke from the PCF in 1928, before being dissolved in 1929 at Paris's demand. Amid growing discontent from the Algerian population, the Third Republic (1871–1940) acknowledged some demands, and the Popular Front initiated the Blum-Viollette proposal in 1936 which was supposed to enlighten the Indigenous Code by giving French citizenship to a small number of Muslims. The pieds-noirs (Algerians of European origin), however, violently demonstrated against it; North African Party opposed it; these led to the project's abandonment. The independent party was dissolved in 1937, and its leaders were charged with the illegal reconstitution of a dissolved league, leading to Messali Hadj's 1937 founding of the Parti du peuple algérien (Algerian People's Party, PPA), which, at this time, no longer espoused full independence but only an extensive autonomy. This new party was again dissolved in 1939. Under Vichy, the French state attempted to abrogate the Crémieux decree in order to suppress the Jews' having French citizenship, but the measure was never implemented.
On the other hand, independent leader Ferhat Abbas founded the Algerian Popular Union(Union populaire algérienne) in 1938, while writing in 1943 the Algerian People's Manifest (Manifeste du peuple algérien). Arrested after the Sétif massacre of May 8, 1945, during which the French Army and Pied Noir mobs killed about 6,000 Algerians, Abbas founded the Democratic Union of the Algerian Manifesto (UDMA) in 1946 and was elected as a deputy. Founded in 1954, the National Liberation Front (FLN) succeeded Messali Hadj's Algerian People's Party (PPA), while its leaders created an armed wing, the Armée de Libération Nationale (National Liberation Army) to engage in an armed struggle against French authority.
Beginning of hostilities
In the early morning hours of November 1, 1954, FLN maquisards (guerrillas) or "terrorists", as they were called by the French, launched attacks in various parts of Algeria against military and civilian targets in what became known as the Toussaint Rouge (Red All-Saints' Day). They also attacked many French civilians, killing several. From Cairo, the FLN broadcast a proclamation calling on Muslims in Algeria to join in a national struggle for the "restoration of the Algerian state – sovereign, democratic and social – within the framework of the principles of Islam." It was the reaction of Premier Pierre Mendès France (Radical-Socialist Party), who only a few months before had completed the liquidation of France's empire in Indochina, which set the tone of French policy for five years. On November 12, he declared in the National Assembly: "One does not compromise when it comes to defending the internal peace of the nation, the unity and integrity of the Republic. The Algerian departments are part of the French Republic. They have been French for a long time, and they are irrevocably French.... Between them and metropolitan France there can be no conceivable secession." At first, and despite the Sétif massacre of May 8, 1945 "that have between 20 000 and 45 000 deaths, according to other sources", and the pro-Independence struggle before World War II, most Algerians were in favor of a relative status-quo. While Messali Hadj had radicalized by forming the FLN, Ferhat Abbas maintained a more moderate, electoral strategy. Fewer than 500 fellaghas (pro-Independence fighters) could be counted at the beginning of the conflict. The Algerian population radicalized itself in particular because of the Main Rouge (Red Hand) terrorist attacks. This terrorist group engaged in anti-colonialist actions in all of the Maghreb region (Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria), killing, for example, Tunisian activist Farhat Hached in 1952.
The FLN uprising presented nationalist groups with the question of whether to adopt armed revolt as the main course of action. During the first year of the war, Ferhat Abbas's Democratic Union of the Algerian Manifesto (UDMA), the ulema, and the Algerian Communist Party (PCA) maintained a friendly neutrality toward the FLN. The communists, who had made no move to cooperate in the uprising at the start, later tried to infiltrate the FLN, but FLN leaders publicly repudiated the support of the party. In April 1956, Abbas flew to Cairo, where he formally joined the FLN. This action brought in many évolués who had supported the UDMA in the past. The AUMA also threw the full weight of its prestige behind the FLN. Bendjelloul and the pro-integrationist moderates had already abandoned their efforts to mediate between the French and the rebels.
After the collapse of the MTLD, Messali Hadj formed the leftist Mouvement National Algérien (MNA), which advocated a policy of violent revolution and total independence similar to that of the FLN. The Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN), the military wing of the FLN, subsequently wiped out the MNA guerrilla operation, and Messali Hadj's movement lost what little influence it had had in Algeria. However, the MNA gained the support of many Algerian workers in France through the Union Syndicale des Travailleurs Algériens (the Union of Algerian Workers). The FLN also established a strong organization in France to oppose the MNA. The "Café wars", resulting in nearly 5,000 deaths, were waged in France between the two rebel groups throughout the years of the War of Independence.
On the political front, the FLN worked to persuade — and to coerce — the Algerian masses to support the aims of the independence movement through contributions. FLN-influenced labor unions, professional associations, and students' and women's organizations were created to lead opinion in diverse segments of the population, but here too violent coercion was widely used. Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist from Martinique who became the FLN's leading political theorist, provided a sophisticated intellectual justification for the use of violence in achieving national liberation He stated that only through violence could an oppressed people attain human status. From Cairo, Ahmed Ben Bella ordered the liquidation of potential interlocuteurs valables, those independent representatives of the Muslim community acceptable to the French through whom a compromise or reforms within the system might be achieved.
As the FLN campaign of influence and terror spread through the countryside, many European farmers in the interior (called Pieds-Noirs) sold their holdings and sought refuge in Algiers and other Algerian cities. After a series of bloody, random massacres and bombings by Muslim Algerians in several towns and cities, the French Pieds-Noirs and urban French population began to demand that the French government engage in sterner countermeasures, including the proclamation of a state of emergency, capital punishment for political crimes, denunciation of all separatists, and most ominously, a call for 'tit-for-tat' reprisal operations by police, military, and para-military forces. Colon vigilante units, whose unauthorized activities were conducted with the passive cooperation of police authorities, carried out ratonnades (literally, rat-hunts, raton being a racist term for denigrating Muslim Algerians) against suspected FLN members of the Muslim community. The FLN terror and intimidation campaign gave these hunts strong motivation and starting points.
By 1955 effective political action groups within the Algerian colonial community succeeded in convincing many of the governors general sent by Paris that the military was not the way to resolve the conflict. A major success was the conversion of Jacques Soustelle, who went to Algeria as governor general in January 1955 determined to restore peace. Soustelle, a one-time leftist and by 1955 an ardent Gaullist, began an ambitious reform program (the Soustelle Plan) aimed at improving economic conditions among the Muslim population (Library of Congress).
After the Philippeville massacre
The FLN adopted tactics similar to those of nationalist groups in Asia, and the French did not realize the seriousness of the challenge they faced until 1955, when the FLN moved into urbanized areas. "An important watershed in the War of Independence was the massacre of Pieds-Noirs civilians by the FLN near the town of Philippeville (now known as Skikda) in August 1955. Before this operation, FLN policy was to attack only military and government-related targets. The commander of the Constantine wilaya/region, however, decided a drastic escalation was needed. The killing by the FLN and its supporters of 123 people, including 71 French, including old women and babies, shocked Jacques Soustelle into calling for more repressive measures against the rebels. The government claimed it killed 1,273 guerrillas in retaliation; according to the FLN and to The Times magazine, 12,000 Algerians were massacred by the armed forces and police, as well as Pieds-Noirs gangs. Soustelle's repression was an early cause of the Algerian population's rallying to the FLN. After Philippeville, Soustelle declared sterner measures and an all-out war began. In 1956 demonstrations of French Algerians forced the French government to abolish an idea of reform.
Soustelle's successor, Governor General Lacoste, a socialist, abolished the Algerian Assembly. Lacoste saw the assembly, which was dominated by pieds-noirs, as hindering the work of his administration, and he undertook to rule Algeria by decree. He favored stepping up French military operations and granted the army exceptional police powers—a concession of dubious legality under French law—to deal with the mounting political violence. At the same time, Lacoste proposed a new administrative structure that would give Algeria a degree of autonomy and a decentralized government. Whilst remaining an integral part of France, Algeria was to be divided into five districts, each of which would have a territorial assembly elected from a single slate of candidates. Deputies representing Algerian risings were able to delay until 1958 passage of the measure by the National Assembly of France.
In August/September 1956, the internal leadership of the FLN met to organize a formal policy-making body to synchronize the movement's political and military activities. The highest authority of the FLN was vested in the thirty-four-member National Council of the Algerian Revolution (Conseil National de la Révolution Algérienne, CNRA), within which the five-man Committee of Coordination and Enforcement (Comité de Coordination et d'Exécution, CCE) formed the executive. The externals, including Ben Bella, knew the conference was taking place but by chance or design on the part of the internals were unable to attend.
Meanwhile, in October 1956, the French Air Force intercepted a Moroccan DC-3 that was flying to Tunis, carrying Ahmed Ben Bella, Mohammed Boudiaf, Mohamed Khider and Hocine Aït Ahmed, and forced it to land in Algiers. Lacoste had the FLN external political leaders arrested and imprisoned for the duration of the war. This action caused the remaining rebel leaders to harden their stance.
France took a more openly hostile view of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's material and political assistance to the FLN, which some French analysts believed was the most important element in sustaining continued rebel activity in Algeria. This attitude was a factor in persuading France to participate in the November 1956 British attempt to seize the Suez Canal during the Suez Crisis.
During 1957 support for the FLN weakened as the breach between the internals and externals widened. To halt the drift, the FLN expanded its executive committee to include Abbas, as well as imprisoned political leaders such as Ben Bella. It also convinced communist and Arab members of the United Nations (UN) to put diplomatic pressure on the French government to negotiate a cease-fire.
Writer, philosopher and playwright Albert Camus, native of Algiers, often associated with existentialism, tried unsuccessfully to persuade both sides to at least leave civilians alone, writing editorials against the use of torture in Combat newspaper.
The FLN considered him a fool, and some Pied-Noirs considered him a traitor. Nevertheless, in his speech when he received the Literature Nobel Prize in Oslo, Camus said that when faced with a radical choice he would eventually support his community. This statement made him lose his status among the left-wing intellectuals; when he died in 1960 in a car crash, the official thesis of an ordinary accident (a quick open-and-shut case) has left more than a few observers doubtful. His widow has claimed that Camus, though discreet, was in fact an ardent supporter of French Algeria in the last years of his life.
Battle of Algiers
To increase international and domestic French attention to their struggle, the FLN decided to bring the conflict to the cities and to call a nationwide general strike and also to plant bombs in public places. The most notable manifestation of the new urban campaign was the Battle of Algiers, which began on September 30, 1956, when three women, including Djamila Bouhired and Zohra Drif, simultaneously placed bombs at three sites including the downtown office of Air France. The FLN carried out an average of 800 shootings and bombings per month through the spring of 1957, resulting in many civilian casualties and inviting a crushing response from the authorities. The 1957 general strike, timed to coincide with, and influence, the UN debate on Algeria, was largely observed by Muslim workers and businesses.
General Jacques Massu was instructed to use whatever methods deemed necessary to restore order in the city, find and eliminate terrorists. Using paratroopers, he broke the strike and then in the succeeding months systematically destroyed the FLN infrastructure in Algiers. But the FLN had succeeded in showing its ability to strike at the heart of French Algeria and to rally and force a mass response to its demands among urban Muslims. The publicity given to the brutal methods used by the army to win the Battle of Algiers, including the use of torture, a strong movement control and curfew called quadrillage and where all authority was under the military, created doubt in France about its role in Algeria. This doubt was strongly communicated to France by French sympathisers in Algiers who supported the idea of independence morally, financially and materially. What had been originally thought of as a simple "pacification" or "public order operation" had turned into a fully fledged colonial war to block the influence of the guerillas and had resulted in the introduction of torture.
From its origins in 1954 as ragtag maquisards numbering in the hundreds and armed with a motley assortment of hunting rifles and discarded French, German, and American light weapons, the FLN had evolved by 1957 into a disciplined fighting force of 40,000. More than 30,000 were organized along conventional lines in external units that were stationed in Moroccan and Tunisian sanctuaries, where they served primarily to divert some French manpower from the main theaters of guerrilla activity to guard against infiltration. The brunt of the fighting was borne by the internals in the wilayat; estimates of the numbers of internals range from 6,000 to more than 25,000.
During 1956 and 1957, the FLN successfully applied hit-and-run tactics in accordance with guerrilla warfare theory, which was at the time being formalized (in particular by Mao Zedong) as "people's war". Whilst some of this was aimed at military targets, a significant amount was invested in a terror campaign against those in any way deemed to be supporting or encouraging French authority. This resulted in acts of sadistic torture and the most brutal violence against all, including women and children. Specializing in ambushes and night raids and avoiding direct contact with superior French firepower, the internal forces targeted army patrols, military encampments, police posts, and colonial farms, mines, and factories, as well as transportation and communications facilities. Once an engagement was broken off, the guerrillas merged with the population in the countryside, in accordance with Mao's theories. Kidnapping was commonplace, as were the ritual murder and mutilation of civilians (see Torture section).
Although successful in engendering an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty within both communities in Algeria, the revolutionaries' coercive tactics suggested that they had not yet inspired the bulk of the Muslim people to revolt against French colonial rule. Gradually, however, the FLN gained control in certain sectors of the Aurès, the Kabylie, and other mountainous areas around Constantine and south of Algiers and Oran. In these places, the FLN established a simple but effective— although frequently temporary—military administration that was able to collect/extort taxes and food and to recruit manpower. But it was never able to hold large fixed positions. Algerians all over the country also initiated underground social, judicial, and civil organizations, gradually building their own state.
The loss of competent field commanders both on the battlefield and through defections and political purges created difficulties for the FLN. Moreover, power struggles in the early years of the war split leadership in the wilayat, particularly in the Aurès. Some officers created their own fiefdoms, using units under their command to settle old scores and engage in private wars against military rivals within the FLN.
French counter-insurgency operations
Despite complaints from the military command in Algiers, the French government was reluctant for many months to admit that the Algerian situation was out of control and that what was viewed officially as a pacification operation had developed into a major war. By 1956 France had committed more than 400,000 troops to Algeria. Although the elite colonial infantry airborne units and the Foreign Legion bore the brunt of offensive counterinsurgency combat operations, approximately 170,000 Muslim Algerians also served in the regular French army, most of them volunteers. France also sent air force and naval units to the Algerian theater, including helicopters. In addition to service as a flying ambulance and cargo carrier, French forces utilized the helicopter for the first time in a ground attack role in order to pursue and destroy fleeing FLN guerrilla units. The American military later used the same helicopter combat methods in Vietnam. The French also used napalm, which was depicted for the first time in the 2007 film L'Ennemi intime by Florent Emilio Siri.
The French army resumed an important role in local Algerian administration through the Special Administration Section (Section Administrative Spécialisée, SAS), created in 1955. The SAS's mission was to establish contact with the Muslim population and weaken nationalist influence in the rural areas by asserting the "French presence" there. SAS officers—called képis bleus (blue caps)—also recruited and trained bands of loyal Muslim irregulars, known as harkis. Armed with shotguns and using guerrilla tactics similar to those of the FLN, the harkis, who eventually numbered about 180,000 volunteers, more than the FLN effectives, were an ideal instrument of counterinsurgency warfare.
Harkis were mostly used in conventional formations, either in all-Algerian units commanded by French officers or in mixed units. Other uses included platoon or smaller size units, attached to French battalions, in a similar way as the Kit Carson Scouts by the US in Vietnam. A third use was an intelligence gathering role, with some reported minor pseudo-operations in support of their intelligence collection. According to U.S. military expert Lawrence E. Cline, however: "The extent of these pseudo-operations appears to have been very limited both in time and scope.... The most widespread use of pseudo type operations was during the 'Battle of Algiers' in 1957. The principal French employer of covert agents in Algiers was the Fifth Bureau, the psychological warfare branch." The Fifth Bureau "made extensive use of "turned" FLN members, one such network being run by Captain Paul-Alain Leger of the 10th Paras. "Persuaded" to work for the French forces included by the use of torture and threats against their family; these agents "mingled with FLN cadres. They planted incriminating forged documents, spread false rumors of treachery and fomented distrust.... As a frenzy of throat-cutting and disemboweling broke out among confused and suspicious FLN cadres, nationalist slaughtered nationalist from April to September 1957 and did France's work for her." But this type of operation involved individual operatives rather than organized covert units.
One organized pseudo-guerrilla unit, however, was created in December 1956 by the French DST domestic intelligence agency. The Organization of the French Algerian Resistance (ORAF), a group of counter-terrorists had as its mission to carry out false flag terrorist attacks with the aim of quashing any hopes of political compromise.
But it seemed that, as in Indochina, "the French focused on developing native guerrilla groups that would fight against the FLN", one of whom fought in the Southern Atlas Mountains, equipped by the French Army.
The FLN also used pseudo-guerrilla strategies against the French Army on one occasion, with Force K, a group of 1,000 Algerians who volunteered to serve in Force K as guerrillas for the French. But most of these members were either already FLN members or were turned by the FLN, once enlisted. Corpses of purported FLN members displayed by the unit were in fact those of dissidents and members of other Algerian groups killed by the FLN. The French Army finally discovered the war ruse and tried to hunt down Force K members. However, some 600 managed to escape and join the FLN with weapons and equipment.
Late in 1957, General Raoul Salan, commanding the French Army in Algeria, instituted a system of quadrillage (surveillance using a grid pattern), dividing the country into sectors, each permanently garrisoned by troops responsible for suppressing rebel operations in their assigned territory. Salan's methods sharply reduced the instances of FLN terrorism but tied down a large number of troops in static defense. Salan also constructed a heavily patrolled system of barriers to limit infiltration from Tunisia and Morocco. The best known of these was the Morice Line (named for the French defense minister, André Morice), which consisted of an electrified fence, barbed wire, and mines over a 320-kilometer stretch of the Tunisian border.
The French military command ruthlessly applied the principle of collective responsibility to villages suspected of sheltering, supplying, or in any way cooperating with the guerrillas. Villages that could not be reached by mobile units were subject to aerial bombardment. FLN guerrillas that fled to caves or other remote hiding places were tracked and hunted down. In one episode, FLN guerrillas, who refused to surrender and withdraw from a cave complex, were dealt with by French Foreign Legion Pioneer troops, who, lacking flamethrowers or explosives, simply bricked up each cave, leaving the residents to die of suffocation.
Finding it impossible to protect all of Algeria's remote farms and villages, the French government also initiated a program of concentrating large segments of the rural population, including whole villages, in camps under military supervision to prevent them from voluntarily aiding the rebels — or to protect them from FLN extortion. In the three years (1957–60) during which the regroupement program was followed, more than 2 million Algerians were removed from their villages, mostly in the mountainous areas, and resettled in the plains, where many found it impossible to reestablish their accustomed economic or social situations. Living conditions in the fortified villages were poor. Hundreds of empty villages were devastated, and in hundreds of others, orchards and croplands not previously burned by French troops went to seed for lack of care. These population transfers were effective in denying the use of remote villages to FLN guerrillas, who had used them as a source of rations and manpower, but also caused significant resentment on the part of the displaced villagers. The disruptive social and economic effects of this massive relocation continued to be felt into a generation later.
The French Army shifted its tactics at the end of 1958 from dependence on quadrillage to the use of mobile forces deployed on massive search-and-destroy missions against FLN strongholds. Within the next year, Salan's successor, General Maurice Challe, appeared to have suppressed major rebel resistance. But political developments had already overtaken the French Army's successes.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Algerian War", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.