Algiers – Algeria on Sunday buried the remains of 24 resistance fighters returned from Paris after more than a century and a half as it marked the 58th anniversary of its independence from France. The skulls of the fighters, shot and decapitated in the early years of the French occupation, were laid to rest during an emotional ceremony at El Alia cemetery.
The coffins draped with the national flag were lowered into freshly dug graves in the martyr’s square of Algeria’s largest burial ground, alongside national heroes such as top revolt leader Emir Abdelkader.
An elite unit of the Republican Guard presented arms while a funeral march played in the background, an AFP correspondent reported.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who took part in the ceremony alongside other officials, on Saturday said it was time to turn a page on years of frosty relations with France, calling on Paris to apologise for its colonial past.
“We have already had half-apologies. The next step is needed… we await it,” he told news channel France 24 in an interview. An apology was necessary to “face the problem of memory that jeopardises many things in the relations between the two countries”, Tebboune said. It would “make it possible to cool tensions and create a calmer atmosphere for economic and cultural relations”, especially for the more than six million Algerians who live in France, he added.
The skulls, once viewed as war trophies by French colonial officers, were flown into Algiers international airport on Friday and then moved to the Palace of Culture where they were placed on display.