The remains of 24 Algerian insurgents killed at the start of French colonization and handed over by France were welcomed during a solemn military ceremony on Friday in Algiers.
The Hercules C-130 carrying the mortuary remains – skulls – landed at Algiers international airport shortly after 1 p.m., accompanied by three fighters from the Algerian army.
Once on Algerian soil, the 24 “martyrs” coffins, covered with the national flag, were greeted by a long guard of honor. They were slowly carried by soldiers, wearing sanitary masks, on a red carpet and to the sound of 21 gunshots.
The coffins on display on Saturday
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune bowed to each coffin. An imam said a prayer before a speech by the chief of staff, Said Chengriha.
The coffins will then be transferred to the Palace of Culture, where they will be exposed throughout the day on Saturday. The remains are to be buried Sunday – Independence Day – in the Martyrs’ Square at the cemetery of El Alia in Algiers.
Colonized for 132 years (1830-1962), Algeria announced on Friday through the voice of Mr. Tebboune the return “of the remains of 24 leaders of the Popular Resistance”, “heroes who faced the brutal French occupation, between 1838 and 1865, and that the savage enemy beheaded in retaliation before transferring their skulls overseas … ”.
Their return by France is a strong sign of a thaw in relations between Algeria and the former colonial power, marked since independence in 1962 by recurrent controversies of tensions and misunderstandings.
“It is the meaning of work for the reconciliation of the memories of the French and Algerian peoples”
“This gesture is part of a process of friendship and lucidity on all the wounds of our history,” the French presidency told AFP on Friday.
“This is the meaning of the work that the President of the Republic has undertaken with Algeria and which will be continued, with respect for all, for the reconciliation of the memories of the French and Algerian peoples”, she added.
During a visit to Algiers in December 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron undertook to return the Algerian human remains stored at the Musée de l’Homme, one of the sites of the National Museum of Natural History.