Bizarre guerrillas with shaven heads and eyebrows carrying flags emblazoned "Angry at God" massacred nearly 80 innocent civilians in cold blood.
The violent and weird rebels took hold of two villages and instilled in them the fear of God with their spine-chilling appearances, before indiscriminately murdering anyone and everyone in their path.
The horror event – the Oued El-Had and Mezouara massacre – took place 25 years ago today across two villages near Arib in Ain Defla, Algeria.
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The mass killing, this one particularly grizzly and blood-curdling, was one of many committed during the Algerian Civil War which began in 1991 – with Islamic extremist organisation the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) having claimed responsibility for many of them.
The GIA had a strong and menacing local presence and as well as instilling a widespread sense of fear, between 1994 and 1996 would walk the streets of Bentalha and openly kill anyone associated with the government.
The number of massacres peaked in 1997, and they were particularly concentrated in the areas between Algiers and Oran – with very few occurring in the east or in the Sahara.
Another mass killing the month after, the Bentalha massacre on the night of September 22, 1997, was one of the worst committed by guerrillas during the civil war – murdering more than 200 helpless villagers.
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The evening of the massacre started with explosions before attackers began pouring into the neighbourhood – methodically going from house to house and slaughtering every man, woman, and child found within.
Screams filled the air as victims were attacked with machine guns, hunting rifles, and machetes – with the rebels cutting off limbs and cutting throats before raping and then killing women.
According to Amnesty International, survivors said as the massacre took place that armed forces units with armoured vehicles were stationed outside the village and even stopped some of those trying to flee from getting away – leading some to believe the government may have been involved.
A photo later dubbed "The Bentalha Madonna", taken by Hocine Zaourar, became an icon of the massacre – showing a grieving Algerian woman waiting outside a hospital. It won the World Press Photo award in 1997.
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