Islamic Salvation Army (AIS)
ISLAMIC SALVATION ARMY (AIS)
Armed wing of the Islamic Salvation Front, which fought the Algerian regime from 1994 until its disbanding in October 1997.
The Islamic Salvation Army (AIS), or Armée islamique du salut, was founded in Algeria on 18 July 1994 as the "fighting wing" of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). Madani Mezrag, who eventually became the national amir (commander) of the organization, and Ahmed Benaïcha (future commander of the western region), were among its founders. The AIS wished to distance itself from the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which had emerged in 1993 to fight the regime and anyone opposed to the Islamist movement; at the same time, the AIS was fearful of the marginalization of the FIS because many FIS members—including Abderrezak Redjam, Mohamed Saïd, Saïd Makhloufi, and the political refugee Anouar Haddam (all Jazʾarists, the so-called Algerianists as opposed to the salafists )—had joined the GIA in May 1994. In their communiqué announcing the creation of the AIS, Mezrag and Benaïcha advocated "recourse to jihad, in the path of God, as a means of establishing an Islamic state in Algeria, prelude to the establishment of the Caliphate." The AIS proclaimed allegiance to imprisoned FIS leaders Abassi al-Madani and Ali Benhadj.
Unlike the GIA, the AIS conducted, unsuccessfully, classic guerrilla warfare modeled on that which the National Liberation Army (ALN) fought against colonial France from 1954 to 1962. The AIS tried, in vain, to control major portions of the territory, but did garner some support in rural areas. As early as 1995, the AIS sought to negotiate a political solution with the regime. Unlike the GIA, which used horrific methods against its opponents, the AIS, despite recurring alliances with the GIA, advertised its opposition to bombings and indiscriminate massacres of civilians. Its forces were allegedly fighting security forces, not civilians. In 1995 and 1996 the AIS fought gruesome wars against GIA forces. Those wars, which had repercussions on the families of AIS fighters, worked to the advantage of the regime. Negotiations between the Algerian military and the AIS resulted in a unilateral truce proclaimed by Mezrag on 1 October 1997. Thousands of AIS fighters surrendered and handed over their weapons to the authorities. In January 2000 those fighters obtained amnesty under the terms of the "Civil Concord" decreed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika after his election in April 1999. Both Mezrag and Benaïcha offered their services to the authorities to fight the GIA and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which has links to al-Qaʿida.
see also front islamique du salut; qaʿida, al-.
Zoubir, Yahia H. "Algeria: Islamic Secularism and Political Islam." In Religion and Politics in the Developing World: Explosive Interactions, edited by Rolin G. Mainuddin. London: Ashgate, 2002.
Zoubir, Yahia, H. "The Algerian Political Crisis: Origins and Prospects for Democracy." Journal of North African Studies 3, no. 1 (spring 1998): 75–100.