ALGIERS, Algeria

Algeria’s president announced on Thursday that the country would receive the remains of 24 of its independence fighters killed during the Algerian popular resistance against French colonialism.

In a military ceremony, Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced that “in a few hours” military planes arriving from France would land at the Houari Boumediene Airport with the remains of the fighters.

“They [fighters] have been deprived of their natural and human right to be buried for more than 170 years. Led by Cherif Boubaghla and Sheikh Ahmed Bouziane, the leader of the Zaatcha [oasis] uprising and their brothers, the remains include a skull of a young man who was younger than 18 years old,” said Tebboune.

French colonial rule faced fierce resistance in Algeria, which was then met with a brutal crackdown by colonial forces.

In the 19th century, France shipped off the skulls of 37 resistance fighters to be stored at the Museum of Mankind in Paris.

Algeria has been demanding to return the skulls since 2011 for their burial — a demand rejected by Paris.

Later, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that French officials were ready to enact a law that would allow them to hand over the remains, though the process was delayed for years.

Tebboune pledged after he came to power on Dec. 19 last year to restore the fighters’ remains and bury them in Algeria.

France occupied Algeria for 132 years starting July 5, 1830 until July 5, 1962, when the country declared its independence from colonial rule.

During the course of the struggle for independence, over 1.5 million Algerians were martyred, while hundreds of thousands more were injured, went missing or were forced from their homes.

*Bassel Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara

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