The State as a Terrorist: France and the Red Hand

Thomas Riegler


The present article explores a less well-known episode in the history of terrorism: The Red Hand (La Main Rouge). During the Algerian war of independence (1954-1962) it emerged as an obscure counterterrorist organisation on the French side. Between 1956 and 1961, the Red Hand targeted the network of arms suppliers for the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) and executed hits against rebel emissaries both in Western Europe and in North Africa. Today, there is consensus among scholars that the Red Hand had been set up by the French foreign intelligence service in order to strike at the subversive enemy. This makes the Red Hand a telling example of state terrorism and its capacity for unrestricted violence in ‘emergency’ situations. Since the Red Hand’s counterterrorist acts ultimately proved to be futile and due to the repercussions caused in France as well, the case study also highlights the limits of this type of counter-terrorism. 

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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