Islamists have been visibly active
in the aid effort

The man, known as one of the “bearded ones”, is one of Algeria’s Islamists who quickly mobilised in the aftermath of the earthquake to lend a helping hand to the shattered country.

They have vigorously helped to distribute international and government emergency aid, pitched in with rescue and recovery efforts and dug graves.

Zemmouri, about 60 kilometres east of Algiers, voted massively in favour of Islamist candidates in local elections in 1990 and again in legislative elections in 1991.

The second round of elections in early 1992 was abruptly cancelled when it grew clear the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was poised to win, plunging the country into civil war.

The fighting has claimed about 150,000 lives, although it has dropped since Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika introduced a blanket amnesty in 1999.

Algeria’s Islamists, who gained popularity in the early 1990s, are proving to be highly organised. Food, medical supplies, blankets and clothing have been flowing into Zemmouri and as soon as a truck appears young Islamists hurry to meet it and help in distribution.

They have also taken to directing traffic along with local government workers and police.

A local journalist said, “It feels like 1989 all over again,” in reference to an earthquake that struck the town of Tipaza, killing hundreds.the newly formed FIS built solidarity networks which appear to have been reactivated by latest disaster.