ALGIERS - Ahmed Ben Bella helped lead Algeria's fight for independence from France and after victory became its first president, a figure who symbolized the romance of the national liberation struggle before the harsh reality of running a country intruded.
He died on Wednesday morning in the Algerian capital, aged 96, after an illness, the state-run news agency reported.
The son of peasant farmers who grew up near Algeria's border with Morocco, Ben Bella was a decorated soldier in the French army during World War Two, and then joined Algeria's outlawed national independence movement, spending several years in French prisons.
When France relinquished control of Algeria in 1962, Ben Bella became president. In orders issued in the heady days after independence, he helped shape the young country by nationalizing industry and becoming a champion of Third World anti-colonialism.