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The former Algerian defence minister General Khaled Nezzar, charged in Switzerland with crimes against humanity, died on Friday in Algiers aged 86 after a long illness, state television reported. Nezzar was defence minister during the military’s 1992 overthrow of democratic politics and the early years of the decade-long civil war triggered by that decision. In August he was indicted by the Swiss attorney general’s office for crimes against humanity including coordinating torture and efforts to “exterminate” the Islamist opposition. Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf condemned the charges at the time. On Friday, Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune sent a message of condolence to Nezzar’s family in which he said the general “dedicated his life… in service to the nation”. The general remains a highly controversial figure in the North African country. Nezzar was the commander of Algeria’s ground forces and administrated the “state of siege” during the bloody October 1988 riots in which hundreds of Algerians were killed by security forces. In January 1992, elections which were set to bring an Islamist party to power were halted by the military, precipitating a 10-year civil war between government and Islamist forces. Nezzar was sentenced to 20 years in prison in absentia for corruption in 2019 but later returned to Algeria and was rehabilitated.

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