- Title: ALGERIA: Fifty years on, Algiers bomber Zohra Drif recalls the Battle of Algiers
- Date: 30th September 2006
- Summary: (BN15) ALGIERS, ALGERIA (SEPTEMBER 28, 2006) (REUTERS) VARIOUS STREET SHOTS OF ZIROUT YOUSEF
- Embargoed: 15th October 2006 13:00
- Location: Algeria
- Country: Algeria
- Topics: History
- Reuters ID: LVA1NKTM4Y942BSXNJO3LM72XR0Y
- Story Text: Fifty years ago a young blonde woman hid a bomb in Algiers' fashionable Milk Bar cafe where French colonial youths were relaxing after a day at the beach.
The woman, Zohra Drif, knew there would be victims as she left, unremarked thanks to her European looks, to take refuge in the Casbah old quarter minutes before the early evening blast.
What she could not have known was that her actions and those of her colleagues in the 1954-62 independence war, instead of fading into history, are the subject of unprecedented scrutiny among counter-terror specialists around the world. The renewed interest is thanks to a decision by the U.S. military in 2003 to screen the classic 1965 film about the war, The Battle of Algiers, for officers preparing for duty in Iraq.
The blast from her bomb on September 30, 1956, together with another device set off nearby, killed three people and wounded 60, including children. Several people lost limbs sliced off by flying glass.
The attack, a reprisal for a big French bombing that killed dozens in the Casbah weeks earlier, had a momentous effect on the war, intensifying a spiral of violence and boosting the popularity of the pro-independence National Liberation Front.
Algeria, invaded by France in 1830 and in 1956 a colony with more than one million French settlers, won independence in 1962 after a war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives in one of history's bitterest liberation struggles.
Unlike other former French colonial possessions in North Africa, Algeria was technically an overseas department of metropolitan France and to many French people its independence represented a loss of part of their country.
Algerians take the lesson of the film to be that colonial repression, violence and torture, while militarily effective in the short-run, only deepens nationalist sentiment and produces an unconquerable urge towards freedom among the colonised. A reasoning that Drif says is undermining the American presence in Iraq.
Drif says the Americans seem unaware of that message because their forces have caused the deaths of thousands of civilians in Iraq and abused prisoners under their control, echoing French behaviour in Algeria.
Drif, a retired lawyer, is a long-time senior member of the senate and is close to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The far right in France calls her a terrorist for her actions in 1956. Captured soon afterwards, she was sentenced to death and spent five years in French prisons. The French far right says then President Charles de Gaulle should never have pardoned her and freed her at independence.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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