The Armed Islamic Group (also known by its French acronym, GIA) is a Muslim extremist organization that aims to overthrow the secular regime in Algeria and replace it with an Islamic state. GIA was formed out of a bitter struggle for control of Algeria between Islamists and the country’s authoritarian leadership. After winning independence from France in 1962, the country was governed by a socialist party called the National Liberation Front (FLN). Following a series of youth riots in the late 1980s, FLN allowed the country’s first multiparty elections. When a party of moderate and radical Islamists called the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won a round of parliamentary elections in 1991, FLN nullified the victory and banned FIS. The resultant public outcry turned violent, and the paramilitary wing of FIS began targeting security forces. GIA emerged as one of several radical FIS splinter factions that have continued to fight against Algeria’s FLN-supported, military-dominated regimes.
Since 1992, GIA has staged frequent attacks against civilians and government workers in Algeria. The organization has been linked to the massacres of tens of thousands of civilians throughout the country. During that period, GIA has also murdered more than 100 foreigners. Its modus operandi consists of assassinations, bombings, kidnappings, and throat-slitting.
GIA is now thought to consist of between a few hundred and a few thousand operatives, and is listed on the U.S. roster of foreign terrorist groups. The organization has voiced its support for al-Qaeda and other terrorist entities, and some of its members have been involved in international terror campaigns — most notably the attempted smuggling of explosives from Canada into the U.S. with the intent of bombing Los Angeles International Airport.
The Salafi Group for Call and Combat, founded in 1998, appears to be an offshoot of GIA and conducts the same types of attacks. Funding for both groups is attributed to Iran and the Sudan.