Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
An Islamic extremist group, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) aims to overthrow the secular Algerian regime and replace it with a fundamentalist Islamic state. The GIA began its violent activity in 1992 after Algiers voided the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)—the largest Islamic opposition party—in the first round of legislative elections in December 1991.
Organization activities. GIA frequently attacks civilians and government workers in Algeria. Between 1992 and 1998, the GIA conducted a terrorist campaign of civilian massacres, sometimes wiping out entire villages in its area of operation. Since announcing its campaign against foreigners living in Algeria in 1993, the GIA has killed more than 100 expatriate men and women—mostly Europeans—in the country. The group uses assassinations and bombings, including car bombs, and it is known to favor kidnapping victims and slitting their throats. The GIA hijacked an Air France flight to Algiers in December 1994. In late 1999, a French court convicted several GIA members for conducting a series of bombings in France in 1995.
Precise numbers of the GIA members are unknown, but are estimated at about 200 members. Algerian expatriates, some of whom reside in Western Europe, provide some financial and logistic support to GIA. In addition, the Algerian government has accused Iran and Sudan of supporting Algerian extremists.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, 2002. < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ > (April 16, 2003).
Taylor, Francis X. U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001, Annual Report: On the record briefing. May 21, 2002 < http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/rm/10367.htm > (April 17,2003).
U.S. Department of State. Annual reports. < http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/annual_reports.html > (April 16, 2003).