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Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
Groupement Islamique Arme
al-Jama'ah al-Islamiyah al-Musallah

An Islamic extremist group, the GIA aimed to overthrow the secular Algerian regime and replace it with an Islamic state. The GIA began its violent activities in early 1992 after Algiers voided the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)--the largest Islamic party -- in the first round of December 1991 legislative elections. Its founder, Mansouri Miliani, was arrested for his role in the attack on Algiers airport in August 1992, and executed in May 1993.

The GIA was more radical, more violent, and less discriminate in its terrorist campaign than the other Islamic groups and regularly engaged in massacres. In 1993, it broadened its campaign, attacking foreigners living in Algeria to punish them for having anything to do with the despised Algerian government.

The GIA received support from the Algerian community in France, particularly from young first- and second-generation immigrants. The Algerian government, in turn, urged France to destroy these underground networks. In the eyes of the GIA, France was an ally of the Algerian government, which made it the terrorists’ enemy. GIA members in France killed Algerian expatriates they considered too moderate.

In December 1994, GIA terrorists hijacked a French airliner, which they reportedly intended to crash in Paris. The plan was disrupted when French commandos stormed the plane. The major weakness of the operation, which ended when French Gendarmes stormed the plane on the ground in Marseilles and killed the four hijackers, was that the French were able to completely control the message by restricting media access while the plane was on the ground at the Marseilles airport. As a result, all of the drama and terror of the incident occurred inside the plane and away from the public eye.

Suspicions centered on the group for a series of bombings in France in 1995. On July 25, 1995, GIA launched a campaign of terrorism in France itself, beginning with the explosion of a bomb at the Saint-Michel RER (commuter train) station in Paris. This was the first of a series of bombings. The bombs were initially directed at commuter rail and metro stations, but as security tightened, the campaign broadened to include other public places. The GIA placed a total of seven bombs between July 25 and October 17, 1995:

  1. July 25 — A bomb in the metro at the Saint Michel RER station killed eight people and injured more than 50.
  2. August 17 — A bomb detonated in a public trash bin in Paris, injuring 16 people.
  3. August 26 — A bomb was discovered on the Paris-Lyon TVG line near Cailloux sur Fontaine.
  4. September 3 — A bomb exploded at a market in Paris, injuring four people.
  5. September 7 — A bomb in the trunk of a car blew up in front of a Jewish school in Villeurbanna, a suburb of Lyon. The terrorists erred on the timing of the explosion, which was intended to go off just as the children were coming out of the school; eight people were injured.
  6. October 6 — A bomb was discovered in a trash bin in a public toilet in Paris; police quickly evacuated the area before the bomb detonated, and there were only a few injuries.
  7. October 17 — A bomb exploded on an RER commuter train in Paris, injuring 30 people.

The six bombs that exploded killed a total of eight people and injured more than 108. On November 1, 1995, French police arrested most of the members of the GIA network. At the time of the arrest, the terrorists were planning to detonate a bomb at the public market in Lille, in the north of France.

Local terrorist leaders had latitude in target selection and were no doubt guided by operational considerations. There were ample precedents for attacking public surface transportation. Operatives connected with Hezbollah had chosen public places and transportation targets during a previous terrorist campaign in France in the mid-1980s. In the early 1980s, the terrorist group led by the infamous Carlos (Ilych Ramirez Sanchez, known popularly as “Carlos the Jackal”) planted bombs aboard France’s passenger trains. The GIA terrorists may have been aware of a spectacular derailing of a train in France during the Algerian War in 1961, although train derailings had not figured in the GIA’s own campaign in Algeria, and apparently the group had no operational experience in this area.

GIA had two teams operating in France, one led by Ait Ali Belkacim and the other by Bouelem Ben Said. Both men were experienced terrorist operatives, extensively trained—Belkacim was trained in Afghanistan — and deployed to France to recruit and train young volunteers, one of whom was Kelkal.

French police believe that Kelkal was involved in the July 11, 1995, assassination of an imam in Paris who was considered by the terrorists to have been too moderate. According to one report, Kelkal escaped in a shootout with French gendarmes at a checkpoint in a suburb of Lyon on July 15, 1995. Police tracked him down at a hideout in the mountains, and he was killed in the subsequent shootout. Police found a notebook on his body that enabled them to round up others in the terrorist network. In 2002, a French court sentenced two GIA members to life in prison for conducting the series of bombings in France in 1995.

GIA conducted frequent attacks against civilians, journalists, and foreign residents. The GIA embarked on a terrorist campaign of civilian massacres, sometimes wiping out entire villages in its area of operations and frequently killing hundreds of civilians. According to officials in 2000, the rate of killings were at 300 a month. Over 630 people were killed in 2002.

Since announcing its terrorist campaign against foreigners living in Algeria in September 1993, the GIA killed more than 100 expatriate men and women--mostly Europeans -- in the country. The GIA used assassinations and bombings, including car bombs, and it is known to favor kidnapping victims and slitting their throats.

The precise number of members of GIA was unknown, but was probably fewer than 100. GIA mainly operated in Algeria.

Algerian expatriates and GIA members abroad, many of whom reside in Western Europe, provided some financial and logistic support. In addition, the Algerian Government accused Iran and Sudan of supporting Algerian extremists and severed diplomatic relations with Iran in March 1993.

Al-Qaeda promoted terrorism training camps that had long been established in Afghanistan. It is important to note, that while terrorist adherents to al Qaeda trained in the camps, many others did as well. According to the convicted terrorist Ahmed Ressam, representatives of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and its off-shoot the Salafi Groups for Call and Combat (GSPC), HAMAS, Hizballah, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and various other terrorists trained at the camps.

Islamic jihadism in Western Europe from 1994 through 2007 constituted a growing and increasingly lethal threat in the context of increased tensions between the Muslim world and the West. Three periods reflect changes in the organizational, operational, and motivational patterns of jihadism inside Western Europe.

The first period, which spanned 1994 to 1996, featured the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) taking its Algeria-based struggle to France in a localized attempt to deter France from further involvement in the conflict between local Islamists and the secularist military regime in Algeria. The second period, which occurred from 1998 to 2003/2004, involved the functioning of global jihad in Europe, when several terrorist networks linked to and trained by al Qaeda planned and prepared mass casualty attacks against the interests and citizens of the United States, Israel, and, to a lesser extent, France.

In the third period (2003/2004 to 2007), global jihad inspired by al Qaeda planned and executed attacks against European countries that supported and contributed to the U.S.-led “War on Terrorism.” Many of these militant jihadists living in targeted European countries were recruited and radicalized within Europe’s jihadi underworld. They were apparently motivated primarily by European participation in the invasion of Iraq.

Based upon a review of the Administrative Record assembled in this matter, and in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton concluded in September 2010 that the circumstances that were the basis for the 2003 re-designation of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) as foreign terrorist organization had changed in such a manner as to warrant revocation of the designation. Therefore, Secretary Clinton determined that the designation of the Armed Islamic Group as a foreign terrorist organization, pursuant to Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (8 U.S.C. 1189), be revoked October 15, 2010.

Although the GIA no longer met the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization, its remnants and some senior leaders have joined al Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

In recent years, the most active terrorist group has been AQIM. This group, which had been known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) before affiliating with al-Qai’da in 2006, is a splinter of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) that arose in the early 1990s. Although AQIM’s primary targets have been the government and its institutions, it has also targeted foreign interests, particularly in the Sahel states of Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

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Page last modified: 25-02-2015 18:40:22 ZULU