ALGIERS, Algeria: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has narrated an official account of the French massacre of nearly 4,000 worshipers during the 1830-1962 colonial era.
The worshippers were killed as they staged a sit-in inside an Ottoman Mosque called Ketchaoua in an effort to stop it from being converted into a church.
“France has colonized us for 132 years during which there were heinous crimes that cannot be erased with a sweet word. There are families and tribes that have been completely erased such as Zaatcha (southeast of Algeria) and even the infants were not spared,” Tebboune said in a televised interview on Sunday.
He added: “(In Ketchaoua) they killed 4,000 worshipers who were martyred after being surrounded by cannons and exterminated.”
The Ketchaoua Mosque was built by Khair al-Din Barbarossa, the Ottoman ruler of Algeria at the time, in 1520 in the neighborhood of Casbah in the capital Algiers.
Algerian historical accounts show that the French ruler of Algeria at the time, Duke de Rovigo, decided at the end of 1832 to storm the mosque to turn it into a church.
Following the objection of the move by the city’s residents who camped inside it, he demolished the mosque, massacred those inside, and burned copies of the Muslim Holy Book, the Quran.
The Ketchaoua Mosque on the Mediterranean coast, an important symbol of Algerian independence, was first used as a military depot during the French occupation and later as a residence for the archbishops of Algeria.
After the mosque’s demolition in 1844, a large church was built and the building remained a cathedral until Algeria gained independence in 1962.
The mosque was closed in 2008 due to damage caused by a violent earthquake in the country in 2003.
In April 2018, the mosque was reopened following its restoration by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) in accordance to the original Ottoman architectural plan studied by historians and researchers from both Algeria and Turkey.-AA