Early life and education
Born in Rouiba on 14 January 1967, Hattab received religious education in his howntown. Later he was trained as a paratrooper in his national service in the Algerian army, in the course of which he met his future lieutenants Amari Saïfi and Abbi Abdelaziz. After leaving the army in 1989, he became a mechanic. He joined the most radical of the Islamist guerrilla movements, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), after the cancellation of the 1992 elections. In 1994, he became "amir", or chief, in charge of what it called the "second zone" (Kabylie and the eastern part of the capital). As such, he notably was the signer of the document announcing that the GIA had assassinated the anti-religious Kabyle singer Lounes Matoub.
Hattab left the GIA in 1996, rejecting its takfirist policy of massacring Algerian civilians en masse and accusing it of being infiltrated by the Algerian secret services. Then he formed his group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), the same year. However, there is another report giving the year of faoundation as 1998. In April 1999, GSPC issued its first communiqué where Hattab announced that the Algerian government was his enemy, whereas the community of Muslims in Algeria was not the target of the GSPC. The main objective of the GSPC, like the GIA, was to establish an Islamic state in Algeria, rejecting the current secular government.
The GSPC was mainly active in the east of the country, notably in the forests of western Kabylie such as Mizrana, Boumehni, Sidi Ali Bounab, and Takhoukht. However, the group was largely in active from 1999 to 2003. And Hattab rejected to swear allegiance to Al Qaeda. It soon eclipsed the GIA as the latter was torn apart by internal purges and army victories. He lost his leadership position and on 23 October 2003, Nabil Sahraoui had taken over the group. This was a result of Hattab's view that reconciliation with the government should be encouraged. A "repentant" ex-member reported that he was killed by his own organization in summer 2003. However, his successor, the then GSPC leader Sahraoubi reported that Hattab resigned "of his own accord".
On 9 February 2005, the GSPC announced that it had excluded him entirely from the group and saw him as a "stranger to jihad" and a "suppliant before tyranny", according to El Watan, thus further suggesting that previous rumors of his death might have been exaggerated. In March, he was reported to have called for the GSPC to end their fight.
On 22 March 2007, Agence France Presse reported that Hassan Hattab was under a death sentence in Algeria. On 5 October 2007, the then Algerian minister of interior Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni confirmed that Hattab had surrendered on 22 September. However, Hattab did not attend the court and the reports of the minister were proved to be false. In March 2011, the justice minister Tayeb Belaiz stated that Hassan Hattab had been put in a safe place, whereas Abderezzak El Para had been imprisoned.
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