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This article appeared in the October 13, 1995 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

The case of the GIA:
Afghansi out of theater

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Name of group: Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA: Armed Islamic Group)

Headquarters: Algiers, Algeria.

Other major offices, locations: Publications produced in Pakistan, Sweden, and Poland. It has a cell in Belgium, estimated to have 30-40 militants, and 400 passive supporters. Its cell in London has been designated by FIS representative Abou Oussama in Belgium, as the "branch of the GIA ultras."

Founded: February 1992.

Location of operations, areas active: Algeria, especially capital Algiers, where 60-65% of their cadres operate; Boumerdes-Blida region; Bel-Abbes, Tiaret, Tlemcen. France.

Major terrorist actions:

  • Assassination of President Mohamed Boudiaf, on June 29, 1992, attributed to "Islamists" but widely believed to be the work of "mafia" elements within counterintelligence/military security.

  • Bomb in Algiers airport, Aug. 26, 1992

  • Assassination of economist, strategic think-tanker, former education minister, Djillali Lyabes, in Algiers on March 16, 1993.

  • Assassination of Laadi Dr. Flici, former independent political candidate, poet, doctor, in Casbah on March 17, 1993.

  • Assassination of Tahar Djaout, journalist and writer, in Algiers, on May 26, 1993.

  • Assassination by knifing of Mahfoud Boucebsi, renowned psychiatrist in Algiers, on June 14, 1993.

  • Throat cut of Muhamed Boukhobza, sociologist, in Algiers, on June 22, 1993.

  • Assassination of former prime minister and ex-chief of military security, Kasdi Merbah, who was trying to mediate contacts between Islamists and government, in Algiers, on Aug. 21, 1993.

  • Assassination of first foreigners, two French geometers, on Sept. 21, 1993.

  • Throat cut of Youssef Sebti, poet, in Algiers, on Dec. 28, 1993.

  • Killings of 12 Christian Croatian and Bosnian workers in Dec. 1993.

  • Assassination of singer Cheb Hasni in Oran on Sept. 29, 1994.

  • Bomb at cemetery in Mostaganem, on Nov. 1, 1994, attributed to GIA, but reportedly the work of the eradicators.

  • Air France airliner hijacking, in Marseilles, France, on Dec. 26, 1994.

  • Killings of White Fathers priests, 3 French and 1 Belgian, in Tizi-Ouzou, Algeria, on Dec. 27, 1994.

  • Assassination of Algerian football federation president Rashid Haraigue in Algiers on January 22, 1995.

  • Car bomb outside police station, killing 42 and injuring 286 in Algiers on Jan 30, 1995.

  • Assassination of Sheik Abdelbaki Sahraoui, 85-year-old imam, co-founder of FIS, moderate, in Paris, on July 11, 1995.

  • Bomb at a Paris Metro station, on July 25, 1995, followed by another bombing at a metro station on Aug. 17.

  • Failed bombing attempt against Paris to Lyons train on Aug. 26, 1995.

  • Sept. 3-4, 1995, Paris, France: Bomb attempt against a Paris marketplace.

Trademark terror signatures: Individual murders usually by throat-slitting and/or beheading; heads are often found in location other than where the body is; shooting in the head. Mass terrorist attacks are usually done by bombing, using explosives of the type also used by military.

Leaders' names and aliases:

  • Mustapha Bouyali, early leader, shot by security forces, early 1987. Was known as a "Robin Hood," who recruited impoverished youth for spectacular actions.

  • Mohamed Leveilley, early commando leader.

  • Mourad Sid Ahmed, alias Djafaar al-Afghani, first leader; afghansi; shot in Algiers by Algerian security, with nine others, Feb. 26, 1994.

  • Abdelhak Layada, commander in chief of al-Afghani, condemned to death.

  • Mansouri Meliani, founding member; sentenced to death and executed.

  • Ahmad Bouamra, one of the leaders of afghansi ("death phalange") contingent.

  • Sayah Attia, GIA leader, killed.

  • Ahmed Abou Abdallah, Sherif Ghousmi, was head of the "juridical commission" of the GIA, and of the "death phalange," made up of afghansi veterans and responsible for executions in the Algiers region. Ghousmi then became head of GIA after the death of Mourad Sid Ahmed in February 1994; known as an "afghansi," but reportedly only 26 years old, he was killed by security in Sept. 26, 1994.

  • Abdessalam Djemaoune, specialist in throat-cutting, held responsible for killing Croatians in December 1993, killed alongside Ghousmi.

  • Si Abdallah, alias Abou Meriem, killed September 1994.

  • Ali Kouider Benyahia, alias Sheik Boualem, killed September 1994.

  • Djamel Zitouni, alias Abou Abderrahmane Amine, became head of GIA in 1994, took over direction of the "death phalange" from Ghousmi, when the latter became head of the GIA as a whole. He was killed in Ain Defla battle, spring 1995.

  • El Wed, alias "the Pakistani," co-founder of GIA, believed killed in Serkadji prison massacre, in January 1995.

  • Abdul Abdallah Yahia, leader of cell which organized Air France hijacking, killed during storming of plane.

  • Hidouci Abdennour, leader of GIA group in Les Eucalyptus suburb of Algiers.

  • Abou Houdhaifa Ahmed Ezzaoui, alias Ahmed Zaoui, arrested in Belgium in March 1995, identified by Algerian press as "GIA chief in Belgium," also mooted to be head of the GIA in Europe, identified in a GIA communique as its militant. Formerly a FIS candidate, fled Algeria following 1992 coup, via Saudi Arabia to Belgium.

  • Sheik Abdennacer, alias Titraoui Abdenasser, alias Abdel Nasr, arrested with Ezzaoui in March 1995, along with 8 others suspected of being the Belgian GIA cell. Formerly in the AIS, he split and joined the GIA in 1994, after the FIS actively promoted dialogue.

Allied groups nationally or internationally:

  • Al-Ansar (The Supporters), a weekly Arabic newsletter, mailing address: Box 3027, 13603 Hanninge, Sweden. Also reportedly published in Poland, where it has a post office address.

  • Mouvement Islamique Armé (MIA: Islamic Armed Movement), joined with GIA in 1993, has no independent existence now.

Religious/ideological/ethnic motivating ideology:

  • Anti-foreigner: In October, 1993 the GIA issued warnings to foreigners to leave Algeria or be killed. Since the outbreak of violence in 1992, eighty-four foreigners have been killed, of whom 30 were French.

    In January 1995, ultimata were issued to the embassies of Germany, France, United States, Great Britain, Russia, among others, threatening them unless they closed shop. The letter was signed by the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS: Islamic Salvation Front), Armé Islamique du Salut (AIS: Islamic Salvation Army), MIA, and GIA. The FIS and affiliated organizations denied any association with the letter.

    Terrorist actions carried out on French soil have been justified by the GIA, as acts of reprisal against the French government, for its economic, military and political support of the Algerian government.

  • Anti-Christian: The front-page headlines of Al-Ansar, issue no. 94 of April, 27, 1995 give a perfect image of the "clash of civilizations" and the fight between religions which the GIA promotes: "The 'Christian' government of the Philippines carries out annihilation operations against Arab migrants," "The Crusaders' missionary campaigns continue in the Muslim areas of Central Asia," etc.

  • Anti-Jewish: The same issue of Al-Ansar features anti-Semitic propaganda in its front-page headlines: "Rabin, the pig, says that the goal behind the new satellite is to help 'Jewish' intelligence detect Muslim movements." The editorial of the same issue is dedicated to the attack on Yitzhak Rabin's government and the Jews, "the decendants of pig and apes." The Jews, the editorial reads, "have managed to survive and expand their territories, through treachery, expansion and oppression. They want to complete their schemes for a greater Israel 'from the Nile to the Euphrates.' "

  • Anti-women: In May 1994, the GIA issued an edict, signed by Abu Abdallah Ahmed, saying that any woman married to an "atheist" must leave him or be killed. Furthermore, any woman who married any government official was sentenced to death. Any woman who refused the GIA's practice of "marriage of pleasure" was sentenced to death. Women who do not wear the veil are frequently killed.

  • Anti-moderate: Leading targets have been members of the FIS, especially those actively engaged in probes and negotiations with the U.S. administration, as well as with other moderate opposition groups, to end the civil war and return to democracy. In November 1993, the GIA rejected "all dialogue, any truce and any reconciliation" with government forces. The GIA claimed responsibility for assassinating those favorable to dialogue, in a letter to major Algerian newspapers in 1994.

    In July 1995, Sheik Abdelbaki Sahraoui, 85, a founding member of the FIS and a moderate, was assassinated in a Paris mosque. The GIA issued communiqué 37, signed by Abou Abderrahmane Amie, days earlier, threatening that it would kill him, as well as six other FIS leaders in Europe, including Germany-based Rebah Kebir. They were "sentenced" for having sought a negotiated solution to the crisis. (The authenticity of communiqué 37 was questioned widely in the French and Arabic press, which suggested it could have been issued by the Algerian military security, which was considered possibly the author of the murder as well.)

  • Anti-government, anti-technology: Al-Ansar (No. 94) contains reports of killing of civilians, men and women, and sabotage of infrastructure and industry; 1. "the Death Brigades in the capital Algier carried out an operation against the 'doomed' Al-Hadji" (a woman, professor of civil engineering at the College of Harrash). She was immediately killed and her husband seriously injured. 2. "The Signers-with-Blood Brigade set off a car bomb in a residential area where prominent military officers and their families live." (A dozen people were killed, none of them was a military officer.) 3. "Members of a GIA brigade in Constantine kidnapped a grocer who was known for his loyalty to the tyrants [the regime]. After a brief interrogation he was beheaded by the mujahideen according to God's Sharia." 4. "Three agents of the regime were kidnapped and beheaded by the mujahideen in Belabbas." 5. "The units of sabotage and destruction bombed and destroyed a major gypsum plant 20 km to the south of Wahran."

  • Death cult: Issue no. 94 of Al-Ansar documents the ideas of some sheikhs who back the GIA. These sheikhs try to justify the satanic murders of women and children, using Islam and the wholy Qur'an as an ideological base. One of those is based in London, Sheikh Abu Qatadeh Al Falastini (see below).

    A sampling of the newsletter's satanic expressions includes: "Death Brigades"; "Signers-with-Blood Brigades"; "Hang the last infidel ruler from the intestines of the last [Christian] priest!"; "this spirit is enriched with the love of death"; "my dear brothers ... mutilated corpses ... skulls ... terrorism, how beautiful these words are!"; "no doubt that the crack of bullets and the glistening of knives are the best cure for the ill chests"; "the four knights [who hijacked the Air France jet] wrote with their blood in Marseille airport the message that nations cannot be built but with corpses, and glory with blood, states with bones and skulls, and that the greatest nations in history has been the nations that mastered the death industry"; "blood and corpses create glory ... and death creates life" (emphasis in original).

Known controllers/mentors/theoreticians:


Securité Militaire (SM: Algerian military intelligence): Since 1993, at least, it has become a commonplace in the French and other European press, to identify the GIA as "infiltrated" by the Algerian military intelligence. FIS reports have repeatedly pointed to manipulation of the GIA by the SM. Le Monde in January 1995 reported that Algerian police had themselves claimed to have infiltrated the GIA. In 1995, what had been the subject of mooting became the content of political action.

According to a report in Le Canard Enchaîné of Sept. 29, 1995, French Interior Minister Jean Louis Debré ordered French police to break contact with Algerian intelligence services, because "a team of the Algerian military security is suspected, according to Debré, of having manipulated the Islamist authors of one or two bombings committed in Paris."

In the month prior to the Paris Metro bombing, the Algerian newspaper La Tribune warned that terrorists would soon "carry out bomb attacks in Paris to punish the French government."


The group inside Algerian military intelligence (SM) known to manipulate the GIA is the group of "eradicators," hardliners who promote the eradication of all Islamists. Among them are the following:

  • Gen. Mohammed Lamari, Army chief of staff since July 1993.

  • Abderahmane Meziane-Cherif, former interior minister.

  • Maj. Gen. Khaled Nezzar, former defense minister; former officer of French army.

  • Col. Selim Saadi, interior minister since September 1993.

  • Maj. Gen. Mohamed Twfik Mediene, chief of Army intelligence.

  • Maj. Gen. Mohamed Touati, adviser to defense minister.

  • Gen. Khelifa Rahim, commander of land forces since March 1992.

  • Gen. Chabane Ghodbane, commander of naval forces since April 1992.

  • Gen. Mohamed El Moktar Boutamine, commander of air forces since September 1990.

  • Gen. Bennabes Gheziel, chief of defense and security for the presidency, commander of police since June 1987.

  • Maj. Gen. Larbi Belkhair, interior minister (1991-92).


Sheikh Abu Qatadeh Al Falastini, Salah Abu Ishaq, Omar Abdulhakim, and Abu Abdullah Almuhajir are listed as editors of Al-Ansar, issued in London.

Shekih Abu Qatadeh Al Falastini ("the Palestinian") lived in Peshawar, Pakistan on the Afghani border until 1992, then moved to London, where he was given political asylum very quickly. Abu Musaab, Al Suri ("the Syrian"), married a Spanish woman to obtain a Spanish passport, and travels regularly between Sweden and London. Abdelkarim Denesh, who is a distributor of Al Ansar in Sweden and London, is an Algerian citizen, with regular passport, and permanent residence permit in Sweden. Denesh, who is sought by French authorities for the Paris Metro bombing, was engaged in Afghan "relief" operations before becoming active on the Algerian scene. Involved in shady financial operations, he reportedly received a $70,000 check from London.

Abu Qatadeh, according to Al Hayat (Kamil Al Tawil, London, Aug. 22), was accused, together with Abu Musaab, by the FIS of "issuing fatwas [religious decrees] for the notorious Islamic Armed Group (GIA) of Algeria according to which he considered the killing of the wives and daughters of Algerian soliders, police and security personnel as a legal act according to Islamic Sharia."

In an interview with Al Hayat, Abu Qatadeh confirmed having relations to the GIA and writing articles in Al-Ansar, but denied being the "theorist" of the group. "I did not issue these fatwas before they were announced by the leaders of the GIA," he said. He attacked the FIS with the regime. "They [FIS] should not deal with this regime. The rulers are apostates, and killimg them is the only solution," he asserted.

Abu Qatadeh approved the killing of Christian priests on missions in Algeria. He also defends the killing oif Western citizens residing in Algeria by the GIA, because "Algeria is a battlefield and the GIA warned all the foreigners to leave."

Abu Qatadeh writes "lectures" for Al-Ansar every week, in which he explains "why jihad, in the form adopted by the GIA, accords with the teaching of true Islam." He attacks moderate Muslim leaders and the FIS, which he considers as a "group of infidels because they adopted 'democratic dialogue' with secular groups, which is a form of atheism." He also attacks Hassan Al-Turabi of Sudan, and the Sheikh of Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Abu Qatadeh accuses those "so-called thinkers of being the biggest barrier in the way of the Umma's greatness," adding that "there will be no salvation for the Umma unless we bear the slogan: Hang the last infidel from the intestines of the last [Christian] priest." He concludes that the "only weapon we [Muslims] have to face the modern machinery of the enemy is jihad, the continuation of jihad and 'love of death.'"

Omar Leulmi, issued a fatwa justifying the execution of intellectuals.

Omar Abdulhakim, who appears to be the biggest enemy of the FIS, argues in Al-Ansar (ibid.) that today's FIS is nothing but a perversion of the original the real mujahideen movement which started in 1993 after the leaders of FIS were arrested. He brings out documents upon which the Islamic Salvation Army was founded. Through these documents he claims that the true jihad is the one being presently carried out by the GIA.

Current number of cadres: Estimated at upwards of 2,500. From 400 to 1,000 afghansi are reported to have been involved at some time.

Known arms suppliers/routes: Press reports refer to the Italian mafia in Sicily and Naples who supply weapons, legally purchased in Belgium and Switzerland from eastern European countries, which go through the Balkans to northern Italy, through Switzerland and Germany to the port of Hamburg, where they are shipped out to Algiers.

Thumbnail historical profile: Following the December 1991 elections, which were won by the FIS, the Algerian government moved to outlaw the FIS, annul the elections, preventing the second round from taking place. The FIS, 9,000 of whose members were rounded up and jailed, maintained its commitment to the democratic process. Numerous government-instigated provocations aimed at eliciting a violent response, were rejected by Abdelkader Hashani and other FIS leaders.

In June 1992, the first significant terror actions were organized in Algeria. These were carried out by groups composed of the following: radicalized, pro-violence youngsters who had abandoned the FIS, on grounds that violent struggle, not elections, were the correct strategy; lumpenized youth from urban slums; followers of Mustapha Bouyali, active between 1982-87.

Bouyali was active with armed groups in 1982. After his death in 1987, his followers split into two groups; one led by Abdelkader Chebouti and Said Makloufi (formerly an FIS member), which became the MIA; and another, led by Mansouri Melliane, which were autonomous, nameless groups. After the 1992 events, Melliane's group joined with Mohammed Les Veillets (formerly an FIS member, who later established self-defense groups). The merger created many armed groups which called themselves Islamic, thence the name GIA.

It was afghansi in Algeria, among them Mourad Sid Ahmed, who transformed the relatively loose groups into a terrorist organization, with a markedly anti-FIS stance. Following the death of Les Veillets, who refused to target the FIS, an uneducated youth, Abdel Haq Layada, was deployed as the GIA leader, and declared himself "commander in chief of the GIA" in January 1993. His explicit denunciation of the FIS was to become a trademark of the GIA. This occurred prior to the formation of the AIS, a regular, armed resistance force, under the FIS in early 1993.

On May 13, 1993, the GIA and MIA held a unification meeting, during which two former FIS leaders, Mohammed Said and Abdel Rezak Rajam, joined. In the course of 1993 and 1994, reportedly, numerous persons associated with the AIS split from it to join the GIA.

Following the merger of GIA and MIA, large-scale terror attacks were organized as well as targetted assassinations, in both cases hitting civilians, as well as selected government-related figures. Intellectuals, writers, journalists, persons involved in mass media, singers—anyone deemed hostile to their "cause"—was a target. It then moved to killing on the basis of guilt by association: relatives, particularly women and girls, of police or soldiers.

Following the death on Feb. 26, 1994 of the GIA leader, Ahmed Sid Mourad, alias Djafar Al-Afghani, the GIA reportedly split into numerous "little GIAs" and a parallel atomization process was noted in the Algerian intelligence services. In the Algerian war, it is said that "there are three kinds of Islamists: the 'honest' Islamists, the 'SM' Islamists, and the Islamists on the 'other' [foreign] intelligence services."

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