A French investigation into the deaths of seven monks is challenging the war’s historical narrative.
|“Not every truth can be said warm… when I know the truth, I will inform you,” Bouteflika said in 2004 [EPA]|
January 11, 1992 – The second round of what would have been Algeria’s first democratic elections is cancelled by military, who stage a coup d’état to prevent a victory by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).
June 29, 1992 – Mohamed Boudiaf, the Algerian president and a founding member of the FLN who had returned from exile to govern the country at the military’s request five months earlier, is assasinated by one of his bodyguards. Boudiaf was on the verge of launching a major investigation into corruption and had removed several highly-ranked military officials from their posts.
October 30, 1993 – The Armed Islamic Group (GIA) issues an ultimatum for all foreigners to leave the country.
December 1993 – The monks make a non-aggression agreement with Sayah Attiya, then head of the GIA in the Médéa region. The monks agree to treat wounded fighters.
February 1994 – Sayah Attiya is killed.
March 26-27, 1996 – Around twenty armed men force their way into the Tibéhirine monastery, taking Christian, Luc, Christophe, Michel, Célestin, Paul and Bruno captive. Two members of the community escape.
April 18, 1996 – Djamel Zitouni, head of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), claims responsibility for the kidnapping in a statement.
April 30, 1996 – A messenger from the kidnappers delivers an audio cassette of the hostages’ voices, demanding that the French government release prisoners linked to the GIA in exchange for the monks’ freedom.
May 21, 1996 – A second statement claiming to be from the GIA announces that the monks have been killed. “We have slit the throats of the seven monks, as promised,” it declares.
May 30, 1996 – The Algerian authorities inform French embassy officials that they have found the monks’ remains near Médéa.
May/June – Authorities try to prevent Father Armand Veilleux from seeing the monks’ bodies. After insisting that they unseal the coffins, he discovers that only the heads are present.
June 2, 1996 – A funeral service is held for the monks at the Notre Dame d’Afrique basilica in Algiers. They are buried three days later at the Tibéhirine monastry.
July 16, 1996 – Djamel Zitouni is reportedly killed.
July 20, 1996 – Jérôme Monod, CEO of Lyonnaise des Eaux and close to Jacques Chirac, the French president, visits Algeria to discuss investment opportunities.
July 31, 1996 – Hervé de Charrette, the French minister of foreign affairs, visits Algeria. He meets with Pierre Claverie, the bishop of Oran.
August 1, 1996 – Pierre Claverie is killed in a bomb explosion outside his home.
July 17, 1997 – Sid Ali Benhadjar, a former GIA emir of the Médéa region who had quit the group to form his own group, the Islamic League of Dawa and Jihad, issues a statement accusing the Algerian authorities of having infiltrated the GIA and ordered the kidnapping of the monks.
1997-1998 – A succession of brutal massacres by unidentified armed men plunges the country into even further violence. Questions are raised about suspected links to the Algerian security forces, who repeatedly fail to intervene or capture those doing the killing.
1998 – A faction of the GIA, dissenting with the massacres of civilians, splits to create the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).
January 2001 – Habib Souaïdia becomes the first Algerian officer to allege that members of the security forces had committed many of massacres dressed as “Islamists”. He outlines a ruthless strategy of “terrorising the terrorists,” in his book “The Dirty War: 1992-2000”.
April 2001 – A group of Algerians file suit in a French court against General Khaled Nezzar, Algeria’s former defence minister, for crimes including torture when the general is visiting Paris. Nezzar is tipped off and quits the country.
July 2002 – Nezzar sues Souaïdia for defamation in a Paris court, after Souaïdia – living in exile in France – accused him of “being responsible for the deaths of thousands of people”. The case becomes a rallying point for Algerian dissidents, who give evidence to support Souaïdia’s assertions before the court. Nezzar loses.
December 23, 2002 – Abdelkader Tigha, a former officer in the Blida branch of the Algerian secret services’ counterespionage department, tells the French daily Libération that the operation was planned by his superiors to “poison” international opinion against “Islamist barbarity”.
January 24, 2003 – Father Armand Veilleux writes an article in Le Monde, arguing the kidnapping was a false flag operation designed to “convince French politicians and the French people of the dangers of Islamism”.
|Families of victims protested the blanket amnesty, passed in 2006 [EPA]|
September 2003 – Mohammed Samraoui, the former second-in-charge of the counterinsurgency and internal security department of the Algerian secret services, comes out with his own book in 2003, “Chronicles of the years of blood”. He alleges a small group of generals deliberately created the armed “Islamist” groups to protect their grip on power.
December 2003 – Father Veilleux and the family of Christophe Lebreton, one of the deceased monks, file suit to have the allegations made by the Algerian dissidents investigated.
March 2006 – A presidential decree in Algeria grants blanket amnesty for the security forces, state-armed militias and many members of the armed groups. The law criminalises questioning the role the security forces and their allies played in the civil war – effectively silencing families of the disappeared and media.
July 6, 2008 – An anonymous source tells the Italian newspaper La Stampa that the monks were killed by Algerian army M124 helicopters, not the GIA.
June 25, 2009 – Retired General François Buchwalter, former military attach testifies that the monks were killed in a “blunder” by the Algerian military attaché and not by the GIA.
July 9, 2009 – French president Nicolas Sarkozy promises that “there will be no classified information in this case,” yet in spite of the allegations, stresses that he is remains convinced that the monks were killed by the GIA.
August 20, 2009 – Judge Marc Trévidic sends letters to the ministers of defence, the interior and foreign affairs, requesting the declassification of documents relevant to the case.
May 2010 – A film about the monks of Tibéhirine, “Of Gods and men” by Xavier Beauvois, debuts at Cannes.
October 2010 – Judge Trévidic requests the declassification of second round of documents from French authorities.