ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) – Gen. Mohammed Lamari, who led Algeria’s military during a decade of civil war that crushed the nation’s Islamic rebel groups, died Monday. He was 73.
Lamari died after being rushed to a hospital in the town of Biskra south of Algiers, the news agency quoted his brother, Khaled, as saying. The Ministry of Defense said the cause of death was a heart attack.
Lamari was one of the generals who overthrew Algeria’s government in January 1992 to forestall what appeared to be an upcoming victory by an Islamist victory after the first round of a national election.
He then served as a leader of the so-called “eradicators” faction of Algeria’s military, which opposed any reconciliation with the rebels.
Lamari became chief of staff of the army in 1993, and he created a 15,000-man anti-terrorism force that specialized in hunting down Islamic rebels in the country’s remote forests and mountains. An estimated 200,000 people died during the civil war, at least half at the hands of security forces.
The civil war in oil-rich Algeria, one of Africa’s largest countries, ended about 2002, and Lamari retired two years later, reportedly for reasons of ill health. But many suspected it was due to differences with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was then promoting a political amnesty for Islamists.
Lamari began his military career as an officer of the French army, then joined Algeria’s national liberation army during its fight for independence from France. After independence in 1962, he was trained at the Soviet Union’s military academy in Moscow.
The general is to be buried in Algiers on Tuesday.
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