Algeria is bordered by Morocco and Mauritania in the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and Tunisia and Libya in the east. It stretches south to the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert, Mauritania, Mali, and Niger. Major cities include the capital, Algiers, and Oran, Constantine, and Annaba (Bone). Along the Mediterranean Algeria is relatively humid and mountainous. Algeria's population consists of Arabs and Berbers and, until 1962, had a Jewish community of approximately 140,000 people, as well as European settlers who arrived after the French conquest of the country in 1830. The Arabs of Algeria are descendants of the early Arab invaders of the seventh and eighth centuries; like the Islamized Berbers, who comprise 20 to 30 percent of the population, they are Sunni Muslims.
A Phoenician colony, Algeria was ruled by Rome until it was conquered by the Arabs at the beginning of the eighth century and rapidly Islamized. In 1520 the country passed under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish governors, deys, dominated the Mediterranean coast of Algeria in conjunction with the Corsairs, local pirates who seized European ships, their cargo, and crews. In Algiers the Corsairs came to control the Ottoman Empire's political systems. With the French conquest of Algeria in 1830, real wealth and power lay in the hands of the European settlers called colons; both the powerful and rich and the small and poor (pieds noirs) formed, in effect, a superior class that dominated the indigenous population. The colons feared that any political concession to the indigenous people could only lead to the eventual disruption of the control structure that the French were imposing as France made Algeria its base of power in North Africa. As Europeans (French, Italians, Spaniards) settled Algeria in great numbers on land confiscated from both the Muslim Berbers and the Arabs, the Berbers