GIA executed French monks in Algeria in 1996
Algiers – A former leader of Algeria's GIA said Thursday it was the militant group that killed seven French monks in 1996 but blamed France's intelligence agencies for reneging on a deal to save them.
Critics have long been suspicious of the official Algerian and French versions that the Trappist monks were killed by the GIA at the height of a decade of violence that left more than 150,000 people dead.
A retired French general, Francois Buchwalter, recently claimed the Algerian army massacred the monks by mistake when helicopters raided a militant camp near their hilltop monastery. Buchwalter, who was France’s military attache in Algiers in 1996, accused the French authorities of abetting a cover-up.
But in several newspaper interviews Thursday, former GIA chief Abdelhak Layada said it was the GIA who executed the monks at Tibehirine.
"The assassinations were committed by Djamel Zitouni (then head of the GIA) after prevarication by the French intelligence services," Abdelhak Layada told the Arabic-language daily El Khabar.
"The negotiations they were carrying out with the French concerned my release in exchange for the freedom of the monks. The French were slow to reply as to whether or not they would negotiate with the GIA. That was the cause of the failure."
Layada told newspapers that "French secret services double-crossed the Algerian authorities and negotiated directly with the kidnappers.
"For this business in Tibehirine, high treason was committed by the French state. I would say it was a double treason by the French secret services, the DST and the DGSE," he told the French-language daily Le Temps.
"Indeed the French secret services did not tell the Algerian authorities they were negotiating with the GIA for the release of Abdelhak Layada.
"As for the second treason, that was the failure of the French to respect the deal made with the GIA to free the monks. The French envoy, a military attache at the French embassy in Algiers with the rank of general who gave his preliminary agreement for my release, was in fact only taken on to spy on the GIA. That’s why the GIA decided to kill the seven monks."
Last Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was determined to find out who was really behind the abduction of the seven monks, who were also beheaded.
"I want the truth. Relations between major countries are based on the truth and not on lies," he said, adding that he would release any classified documents on the killings which investigators might ask for.
Sarkozy was speaking a day after Buchwalter’s allegations, which were refuted by Algiers and also by Layada’s account of the episode. French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has also vowed to get to the heart of the matter.
Layada, sentenced to death in 1993 by an Algerian court after being extradited from Morocco amid an Islamist insurgency, was freed in 2006 under the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation introduced by Algeria’s current president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
AFP / Expatica