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A history of The Battle of Algiers

The Battle of Algiers was a conflict between Algerian rebels determined to free Algeria of French rule and the French rulers, though it was complicated by clashes within the Algerians themselves. French counter-insurgency forces used retaliatory tactics against the Algerians, including torture. This stimulated Algerian response all the more, and in the end, French rule ended after a referendum. Learn more about the history of The Battle of Algiers.

Beginnings

Beginnings The battle was not a short affair, but rather a sustained guerilla war campaign that went on for several years. The conflict began when the FLN, a group committed to liberating Algeria from French rule, began a campaign of guerilla warfare in 1954. This was mainly hit-and-run attacks on police, but it could not be easily suppressed. This led to France taking the decision to act more harshly. However, political talks in Belgrade and Rome between France and the FLN took place at the same time. Massau In 1957, Guy Mollet, the President of France, gave General Massau absolute power in civil and military matters, and he began to operate outside the law. Torture became widespread and French forces began to develop a harsh retaliation policy, punishing villages for anti-French activity by any of their members. Villagers were sometimes concentrated in large camps under military supervision to prevent them from helping the rebels, and strict controls on movements across borders were put in place. These measures merely made matters worse, as they provoked a backlash. A system of quadrillage was put in place. This involved dividing Algeria into military-controlled zones. However, a massive search and destroy mission against FLN strongholds had give the French near victory by 1958.

The situation deteriorates

The matter was complicated by fighting within Algeria. The FLN was, for example, in conflict with the MNA, another Algerian group, who did not trust them. The Pieds-Noir were Algerians of French descent who supported the country's link with France and began to undertake terrorist actions in Algeria. Political developments The biggest problem was political developments. The Suez crisis had undermined Western influence in the Arab world and the fourth republic in France was failing, under pressure from attempts to overthrow it. This stirred up the uprising again. De Gaulle returned to power. By this time, the French population was losing heart at the war and were seeking a way out. In 1961, De Gaulle organised a referendum on Algerian independence, which the independence forces won, and Algeria became independent in 1962. This battle has been the subject of an important film, so it is well-represented in battle art.

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