By Husameddin Islam
ALGERIA (AA) – Built during the Ottoman era, Algeria’s Ketchaoua Mosque is not only one of the country’s most important symbols, but is also an important witness to the crimes committed by the French colonial administration in the country.
In an interview with local media on Oct. 11, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune gave an official account of the French massacre of nearly 4,000 worshipers during the colonial era of 1830-1962.
"France colonized us for 132 years, years which saw heinous crimes that cannot be erased with fine words. There are families and tribes that were completely wiped out such as Zaatcha (southeastern Algeria), and not even babies were spared,” said Tebboune.
He added that in Ketchaoua “they killed 4,000 worshipers who were martyred after being surrounded by cannons and exterminated."
The Ketchaoua Mosque was built in 1520 by Khair al-Din (Hayreddin) Barbarossa, then-Ottoman ruler of Algeria, in the famed Casbah quarter of 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.
When the city's residents camped inside the building in protest, Rovigo demolished the mosque, massacred those inside, and burned copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
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 from a 2003 earthquake.
In April 2018, the mosque was reopened following its restoration by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) – Turkey’s state-run aid agency – in line with the original Ottoman architectural plan according to historians and researchers from both Algeria and Turkey.