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November 4, 2016
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May 17, 2000
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July 7, 1992
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ppro~00~/68 ~~~9~~ ~~~'o Question Army Policy, Focus By Jonathan C. Randal Washington Post Foreign Service ALGIERS-For many Algerians; the most troubling fact about last week's assassination of head of state Mohammed Boudiaf was that the man identified as the apparent assassin was a junior officer in an elite army security unit who had Muslim "religious convictions." The report that an army officer had pulled the trigger seemed to confirm recurring rumors here that NEWS ANALYSIS the army, long consid- ered the regime's ul- timate bulwark against chaos, was as subject as the rest of society to the Islamic fundamental- ist virus. In Algeria, an old saw states, "Cther countries have an army; here the army has the country." Officially, that army, which effec- tively has run Algeria from behind the scenes since independence 30 years ago, was silent when con- fronted with evidence of the seem- ing penetration of its ranks by the very fundamentalists it has sworn publicly to eradicate. The army had never formally named the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front as the enemy. But iii January, it ousted president Chadli Bendjedid . to prevent the front from winning Algeria's first free parliamentary elections. Then it brought war hero Boudiaf back Boudiaf and Defense Minister Khaled Nezzar later banned the front, arrested its leaders and sent thousands of militants to Sahara detention camps. Indeed, only two days before Boudiaf's assassination, the regime had brought before a military tri- bunal the Islamic Salvation Front's top leaders-Abbasi Madani, Ali Belhadj and five others-on capital charges of seeking to overthrow the government and replace it with an Islamic republic in June 1991. Conspiracy theories on Boudiaf's assassination soon emerged, laying blame variously on mysterious mil- itary and civilian power brokers or alleged skullduggery by Bendjedid and the discredited National Liber- ation Front, which monopolized power until 1990. Some accusations also were di- rected at the army. Indeed, a senior Algerian source said so many peo- ple "were accusing the army of bringing Boudiaf back, using him and then getting rid of him" that the government set up an impartial, three-man panel of the slain lead- er's associates to investigate his death and "convince the people [the army] had nothing to do with it:' In dealing with the succession, Nezzar and his fellow generals, tra- ditionally shy of the limelight, brushed aside hard-line suggestions that they impose an outright mil- itary regime 6y invoking the ulti- mate bulwark argument. who is not expected to fulfill Bou= diaf's promise of "radical change" for a people fed up with soaring in- flation and unemployment, econom- ic mismanagement and revolving- door governments. Kafi, however, has the political connections capable of initiating a national reconciliation with the Islamic fundarentalists. Even Nezzar has favored such a dialogue, according to key diplo- mats and political observers, de- spite his call a week ago for the "eradicating" of fundamentalist ex- tremists. The generals are said to be con- cerned about the army's cohesion. They are mindful that younger of- ficers are having second thoughts about the yearlong state of emer- gency decreed in February, which has cost the lives of some 100 sol- diers and policemen. The generals also know the re- gime now is more beholden than ever to France, Italy, Spain and oth- er Western governments, which have thrown good money after bad in helping successive Algerian ad- ministrations. Even before Boudiaf's assassina- tion, foreign business hesitated to make major investments because of Algeria's political instability and a $24 billion foreign debt devouring 70 percent of foreign-exchange earnings-which come from oil and natural gas exports. In such circumstances, the fun- everything to da m e nt alists h ave Appr~tc~~r~~xo1~A98~~n;eM~ a "constitutional coup d'etat." ~~ YY~~ ~~ee r}~ ~ ~~} f~~~g?q~~~ { ;~i~'a~ArbNO~rlfl`~~t t~bt`~fuYther undraveling the Algerian veterans' organization, of Algeria's social fabric.