Ahmed Ben Bella, a farmer’s son who fought for France in World War II, turned against it in the brutal struggle for Algerian independence and rose to become Algeria’s first elected president, has died at his home in Algiers, the capital. He was 93.
The state news agency announced his death on Wednesday morning.
Tall, athletic, handsome and charismatic, Mr. Ben Bella was known for his quick mind, courage and political cunning, traits that became tools of survival in a turbulent life. He faced heavy combat in wartime France and Italy, escaped French assassination attempts as well as a prison, then survived the murderous intrigues of political rivals as he struggled to impose socialism on his sprawling, divided country in the anarchy that followed independence in 1962.
On June 19, 1965, after less than three years as prime minister and president, he was ousted in a coup led by an old ally. He spent the next 14 years in confinement and never again held power. But he remained a powerful voice for the third world amid the conflicts of the cold war and the unrest within the Arab world over Israel, Iraq and radical Islam.
“My life is a life of combat,” he told an interviewer in his last years. “It is a combat that started for me at the age of 16. I’m 90 years old now, and my motivation hasn’t changed; it’s the same fervor that drives me.”
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