Magazine article History Today
Insurrection in Algeria: November 1st, 1954
NATIONALIST resistance to the French had been developing in Algeria for years, but the last serious outbreak had been in 1945, when an inadequately organised rising was quickly suppressed. Now the early hours of November 1st saw purposeful assaults on French troops and police, arson attacks on factories, explosions and sabotage. Bombs exploded in Algiers itself, but the main thrust was in the Aures Mountains near the Tunisian border, long a refuge for outlaws. Bandit chiefs led some of the groups which attacked army barracks, police stations and railway stations. The insurrection's leaders called themselves the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN). Many of them were former French army NCOs, including Ahmed Beta Bella, an ex-sergeant with a distinguished war record and a knack for bank-robbery.
Cairo radio went on air at once to announce that 'free sons of Algeria have launched an insurrection in defence of Algerian freedom against French imperialism in North Africa and to praise their 'glorious struggle for the cause of freedom, Arabism and Islam'. French police raided offices of Algerian organisations in Paris, Marseilles and other towns where the nationalists had sympathisers among Algerian immigrants.
A force of foreign legionaries and paratroopers was assembled for operations in the mountains and to block rebel supplies and reinforcements from Tunisia, and French aircraft bombed rebel camps. The area's inhabitants were mainly Muslim Berbers (not Arabs). Some were influenced by the fundamentalist Senussi sect, which wanted to see a return to the Islam of the Prophet, but the rebels terrorised the Muslim majority which did not support them. …