Front Page







World Summary

On Air


Talking Point


Text Only


Site Map

Sunday, January 4, 1998 Published at 08:56 GMT


400 die in Algeria massacre
image: [ At least 60,000 people have died in the conflict in Algeria in the past six years ]
At least 60,000 people have died in the conflict in Algeria in the past six years

Survivors of the massacre in Algeria have been giving their first accounts on Algerian television.

Algerian newspapers say 412 people died - many of them women and children. One newspaper, Liberte, said the victims had their throats cut and were decapitated.

It is the worst massacre in six years of political violence.

Survivors of the systematic slaughter say whole families were rounded up and butchered with knives and axes in an attack that lasted until dawn.

One man said he saw the attackers slit the throats of his wife and seven children.

The authorities blame such killings on Muslim extremists, although human rights groups say the military-backed government is not without blame.

Attack followed pattern

[ image:  ]
The attack took place on Tuesday in four isolated villages in the province of Relizane.

It appears to have followed the same pattern already established by numerous other massacres in the central region around Algiers.

According to local newspaper reports, the assailants arrived at sunset at the end of the first fasting day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and stayed until dawn.

BBC North Africa Correspondent Heba Saleh interviewed about the massacre reports (2'23)
They set upon the victims, cutting their throats and hacking them to death using knives and hatchets. Some bodies were dismembered and not even babies were spared.

Algerian newspapers said when security forces arrived after the massacre they quickly buried the victims in makeshift graves. The security forces originally said 78 people were killed.

A witness is quoted as saying that he saw 50 bodies being pulled out from a house and 30 others from another next door.

Focus of attacks moved

The villages where the massacres took place are in a mountainous and wooded area which has always been regarded as dangerous, although it had never been the scene of such a widescale attack.

[ image: Attacks had focused on the central area]
Attacks had focused on the central area
Indeed, western Algeria had previously been regarded as relatively calm in comparison to the centre.

But in the last 10 days more than 800 people have been killed, mostly in the west.

There is some speculation that the Armed Islamic Group which is accused of the killings may have shifted its operations to the west as the result of pressure from the security forces in the centre.

The chief of the army's second region (Oran), General Kamel Abderrahmane, was quoted by the press recently as saying isolated villages should arm themselves or take refuge in larger, better protected towns.

Ramadan restrictions

The central government has imposed new Ramadan restrictions, particularly around mosques and public places. During the last Ramadan in January of 1996, more than 400 civilians were killed in a series of attacks and car bombings in Algiers.

[ image: The country has suffered sectarian violence since 1992]
The country has suffered sectarian violence since 1992
Western sources say sectarian violence has left more than 60,000 dead, most of them civilians, since 1992, when the government held on to power by cancelling the result first round of legislative elections won by the Islamic Salvation Front.

Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, puts the toll at more than 80,000.

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage


  Relevant Stories

03 Jan 98 | Despatches
Hundreds die in Algeria massacre

31 Dec 97 | Despatches
Seventy-eight die in Algerian massacres

31 Dec 97 | World
New Algerian massacre

31 Dec 97 | World
Algeria tightens security during Ramadan

29 Dec 97 | World
Thirty-nine civilians reported killed in new Algeria attacks

28 Dec 97 | World
Villagers hacked to death in Algeria

28 Dec 97 | World
Villagers killed in new Algeria attack

In this section

From Business
Microsoft trial mediator appointed

Violence greets Clinton visit

From Entertainment
Taxman scoops a million

Safety chief deplores crash speculation

Bush calls for 'American internationalism'

Hurricane Lenny abates

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Russian forces pound Grozny

Senate passes US budget

Boy held after US school shooting

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

Sudan power struggle denied

Sharif: I'm innocent

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

India's malnutrition 'crisis'

Next steps for peace

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Dam builders charged in bribery scandal

Burundi camps 'too dire' to help

DiCaprio film trial begins

Memorial for bonfire dead

Spy allegations bug South Africa

Senate leader's dismissal 'a good omen'

Tamil rebels consolidate gains

New constitution for Venezuela

Hurricane pounds Caribbean

Millennium sect heads for the hills

South African gays take centre stage

Lockerbie trial judges named

World Contents

Middle East
South Asia
From Our Own Correspondent
Letter From America