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Algeria: New book provides chilling details of French secret organisation OAS

By Soufiane Khabbachi
Posted on Tuesday, 16 November 2021 03:26

OAS grafitti in November 1961 in Algiers. © Marc Garanger/Aurimages via AFP

Writing under the pen name Edmond Fraysse, the author of Commando Delta: Confessions of an OAS Operative [currently available in French as Commando Delta – Confessions d’un Soldat de l’OAS], born in Fez, Morocco in 1939, says he “attended the same schools as Arabs” and “was familiar with their customs”. For this highly motivated ex-paramilitary operative, patriotism inspired by French King Louis Philippe I’s rule and the 1848 Revolution, at which time his ancestors were sent to Algeria, overrode all moral considerations.

Persuaded of the benefits of colonisation and the imperative need to keep Algeria under French rule, Fraysse joined the OAS ranks at 21, right after completing basic training with the 18th airborne infantry unit. Now 82, Fraysse has taken the pains to publish a memoir in which he catalogues his experiences and attempts to shift the narrative around the group’s far-right labelling, all the while effectively pulling readers into his world.

His lack of remorse is evident as he recounts the killings he committed, sparing no morbid detail. “To this day I take great pride in the work I did,” Fraysse writes in his book. He doesn’t seem to view some of his actions, including the murder of a witness to one of his crimes, as clear acts of terrorism.

OAS was founded on 11 February 1961 by a handful of French military generals, captains and colonels. Once ardent admirers of General Charles de Gaulle, they came to consider him a traitor to his country after he renounced the government’s commitment to preventing Algerian independence.

Drawing notice for his involvement in attacks and other acts of violence, Fraysse enlisted in the OAS Delta Commando, which he describes as a “paramilitary force specialising in the extrajudicial killing of individuals terrorising Algerian Europeans”. At the time, a fierce underground war was playing out between the pro-independence National Liberation Front (FLN) and supporters of French Algeria, in which targeted killings began taking precedence over other types of attacks.

Echoing the frequent fear-mongering of France’s most far-right political voices about the country’s Muslim community, throughout his book, the author refers to Islam as an inherently bellicose religion bent on triumphing over the West. Read on for several translated excerpts, which shed light on what led a number of French military leaders to go underground and commit terrorist acts on Algerian soil.

Underlying motivations

“We slowly came to realise that the French government was unable to nip every terrorist attack in the bud. That was my first light-bulb moment. The obliviousness or powerlessness of our secret services only added to the sense of fear and insecurity that pervaded among Algerian Europeans. This fear provided fertile ground for FLN assassins, who were all too aware of the cumulative, morale-draining effect of their actions on this particular segment of society. (…)

“Disappointment gradually gave way to indignation and anger. Shocked and unsettled by the government’s failure to take the measure of the war and to ensure our safety, a large swath of the public grew more radical. Why didn’t mainland France put all the material and human resources it could into tackling the terrorist threat? (…)

“Some of our brothers in arms, generals and colonels, had already grasped that hard times were ahead. These were true visionaries who understood that mainland France could end up paying a high price for a culture of indifference, naive optimism and tolerance, on top of the sometimes surprising political alliances being formed in Paris. (…)

… I was the first to enter the store. I lifted my shirt to grab my gun. The target turned around, registering that his life was in danger, but it was already too late.

“The way I saw it, the attitude adopted by French authorities left civilians with no choice but to take control of their own destiny. The government’s inability to take urgent action against terrorists triggered our activism, at a time when numerous signs indicated that a new outbreak of violence was on the horizon. (…) What motivated me and countless others was France’s failure to act, which we interpreted as cowardice. (…)

“As Algerian Europeans’ wariness of the government rose exponentially, we came to believe that it was our right, if not duty, to form a resistance movement. Didn’t we have the right to defend ourselves? (…) We had an increasingly legitimate reason to take matters into our own hands and, given the government’s dereliction of duty, we tasked ourselves with protecting our community.”

Account of a targeted killing

“A high-ranking FLN leader known for his effective fundraising skills was regularly sighted in the north-eastern city of Constantine. (…) Named Abdel, our soon-to-be first target was a plump man, about 1.7 metres tall and wearing a skullcap. He owned a grocery shop located along a narrow street off Rue Caraman.

“On the big day, dressed in civilian clothing and with two balaclavas within easy reach, I slid my gun between my belt and pants, pulled my polo shirt down and zipped up my leather jacket. (…) While we parked our car on a side street, I kept going over the plan in my head. Once my balaclava was properly on, I was the first to enter the store. I lifted my shirt to grab my gun. The target turned around, registering that his life was in danger, but it was already too late. The first bullet went through his temple, his face contorting grotesquely in response.

“Until then, everything had gone according to plan, but it turned out that he wasn’t alone. Another man, stunned and momentarily paralysed by the bloody scene, tried to hurry away to safety. Making a split-second decision, I took him out, knowing that he, as a witness, could cause us serious trouble during a police investigation later on.

“Without second-guessing myself or losing precious time, before he could get away I raced after him and put a bullet in his forehead. His bulging eyes stared at me strangely and his head appeared to collapse over his shoulders. He staggered, his legs bending before he fell to the ground with a violent jolt. (…) There was no need to deal a coup de grace, as I could see with a single glance that my first shot had taken care of both men.”

Edmond Fraysse, Commando Delta, Confessions d’un soldat de l’OAS, French edition published by Éditions Nouveau Monde. English edition not yet available.

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