Algerians Remember Massacres Of 1945

Monday, May 9, 2005

ALGIERS, May 8 -- President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has called on France to admit its part in the massacres of 45,000 Algerians who took to the streets demanding independence as Europe celebrated victory over Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945.

Algeria is marking the 60th anniversary of the repression of pro-independence demonstrators under French colonial rule as Europeans celebrate the end of World War II in Europe.

"The paradox of the massacres of May 8, 1945, is that when the heroic Algerian combatants returned from the fronts in Europe, Africa and elsewhere where they defended France's honor and interests . . . the French administration fired on peaceful demonstrators," Bouteflika said in a speech published in state media on Sunday.

Colonial forces launched an air and ground offensive against several eastern cities, particularly Setif and Guelma, in response to anti-French riots, in which about 100 Europeans wee killed.

The crackdown lasted several days and according to the Algerian state left 45,000 people dead. European historians put the figure at between 15,000 and 20,000.

It marks one of the darkest chapters in the history of Algeria and France, which ruled the North African country from 1830 until 1962.

France's ambassador to Algeria said in February that the Setif massacre was an "inexcusable tragedy." It was the most explicit comments by the French state on the event.

Several remembrance events were held across oil-rich Algeria. More than 20,000 people, including ministers, took part in a march on the same route protesters took in Setif in 1945.

The repression sparked the anti-colonial movement and a long war of independence, in which as many as 1.5 million Algerians were killed.

Algeria also called on Sunday for international help in removing about 3 million landmines France planted along its borders with Morocco and Tunisia during its war of independence.

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