Ahmed Ben Bella was born in Maghnia, Algeria, in 1916. He served in the French Army during the Second World War. After the war he became involved in the independence movement and in 1949 became leader of Organisation Speciale, the paramilitary wing of the Party of the Algerian People.
Ben Bella was captured in 1952 but he escaped to Egypt where he founded the National Liberation Front (FLN). Under the leadership of Ben Bella the FLN fought a long war of independence from France.
In 1962 Algeria gained its independence and Ben Bella became the country's first prime minister and in 1963 was elected president. Ben Bella attempted to establish a system similar to the one led by Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt.
However Ben Bella was deposed in 1965 in a military coup led by General Houari Boumedienne and was kept under house arrest until 1979. He spent the next ten years in exile but in 1990 he returned to live in Algeria.