Algeria Info : Geography
Nearly four times the size of Texas, Algeria is bordered on the west by Morocco and Western Sahara and on the east by Tunisia and Libya. To the south are Mauritania, Mali, and Niger. The Saharan region, which is 85% of the country, is almost completely uninhabited. The highest point is Mount Tahat in the Sahara, which rises 9,850 ft (3,000 m) (Algeria Info : Geography)
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Excavations in Algeria have indicated that Homo erectus resided there between 500,000 and 700,000 years ago. Phoenician traders settled on the coast in the 1st millennium B.C. As ancient Numidia, Algeria became a Roman colony, part of what was called Mauretania Caesariensis, at the close of the Punic Wars (145 B.C.). Conquered by the Vandals about A.D. 440, it fell from a high state of civilization to virtual barbarism, from which it partly recovered after an invasion by Arabs about 650. Christian during its Roman period, the indigenous Berbers were then converted to Islam. Falling under the control of the Ottoman Empire by 1536, Algiers served for three centuries as the headquarters of the Barbary pirates. Ostensibly to rid the region of the pirates, the French occupied Algeria in 1830 and made it a part of France in 1848.
Algerian independence movements led to the uprisings of 1954–55, which developed into full-scale war. In 1962, French president Charles de Gaulle began the peace negotiations, and on July 5, 1962, Algeria was proclaimed independent. In Oct. 1963, Ahmed Ben Bella was elected president, and the country became socialist. He began to nationalize foreign holdings and aroused opposition. He was overthrown in a military coup on June 19, 1965, by Col. Houari Boumediène, who suspended the constitution and sought to restore economic stability.
In Dec. 1991 in the first parliamentary elections ever held in Algeria, the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut; FIS) won the largest number of votes. To thwart the electoral results, the army cancelled the general election, which plunged the country into a bloody civil war. An estimated 100,000 people have been massacred by Islamic terrorists since war began in Jan. 1992. The undeclared civil war escalated in its brutality and senselessness in 1997–98. Islamic extremists, who had originally focused their attacks on government officials and then shifted to intellectuals and journalists, abandoned political motivations entirely and targeted defenseless villagers. The mass slaughters were as savage as they were random, and the government was markedly ineffectual in stemming the violence. There is some evidence that the army in fact looked the other way while its civilians were slaughtered. Algeria refused international mediation and kept the outside world largely in the dark about the war within its borders.
Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika's ascension to the presidency in April 1999 was initially expected to bring peace and some economic improvement to this desperate war-torn country. Bouteflika, however, has been locked in power struggles with the military, whose support is crucial. Despite the appearance of democracy, Algeria remains in essence a military dictatorship. Bouteflika's plan of national reconciliation, which included an amnesty for Islamic militants not convicted of murder or rape, has done little to heal wounds. In 2001 violence by Islamic militants was again on the rise, and the long-disaffected Berber minority engaged in several large-scale protests. The Berber-speaking region of Kabylia and other regions continued large protests against the government in 2002.
Algeria's most destructive earthquake in two decades struck near the capital on May 21, 2003. The 6.7 magnitude earthquake killed more than 2,000 people and injured many thousands more.
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