President Mohammed Boudiaf, assassinated on Monday, was Algeria's best hope of evolution to democracy. Now the conflict between secular militarists and Muslim fundamentalists is renewed.
President Boudiaf was a figurehead for a chastened military regime. He had been in exile for 27 years when invited back in January to head the High State Committee. He was part of the revolution that brought independence from France 30 years ago. But he was untainted by the corruption and tyranny of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) since then. He was 73, and equally opposed to fundamentalism and corruption.
The assassination of Mr. Boudiaf in a hail of gunfire before an audience in the eastern town of Annaba left many questions. It came as the treason trial against seven leaders of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was resuming. Throughout the French-speaking Islamic world, some clergymen cheered. The FIS won the first round of an election last Christmas and deserved to form a government when the army instead threw out the Marxist-military president, Chadli Benjedid, canceled the run-off election and jailed 10,000 FIS supporters.