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People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

January 2007

Area: 919,595 square miles.
Neighbours: Tunisia, Libya, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Western Sahara and Morocco.
Environment: Algeria consists mainly of arid desert. Over 90% of the population lives north of the Atlas Mountains. The Ahaggar Mountains lie in the south. There is a narrow coastal plain with a Mediterranean climate where agriculture is possible.
Population: 33 million. About 2.5 million Algerians live in Europe.
Infant mortality: 3% of live births.
Life expectancy: 73 years.
Ethnic groups: Arab (largest), Berber, Arab-Berber, Bedouin, Moroccan, French and Hausa.
Languages: Arabic (official), Berber, French and English. Literacy: 61%.
Capital city and port: Algiers (4.5 million). Other cities: Oran (932,000) and Constantine (664,000).
Economy: Algeria has huge oil and gas deposits and is the second-largest natural gas exporter in the world. However, the income from exports is not being used to redress urgent social and infrastructure problems – including poverty, high unemployment and a need for economic diversification. There are deposits of iron ore, phosphates, coal, lead, zinc and uranium.
Religions: Sunni Muslim (state religion) 97%, non-religious 3%. Protestant Christians probably number less than 15,000.
History: Following a long war of liberation, Algeria won independence from France in 1962 after 132 years as
a colony. A one-party socialist regime backed by the army has dominated politics ever since. Democratic elections in 1992 gave victory to an Islamic party but the results were annulled by the army. The ensuing civil war resulted in over 100,000 deaths, many due to indiscriminate massacres of villagers. The Government regained control by 2000, but radical Islamics constitute an ongoing insurgency problem.

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Algeria