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Last Updated: Friday, 5 October 2007, 22:49 GMT 23:49 UK
Top Algerian militant surrenders
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The founder of an Algerian militant group has surrendered to the police, Algerian authorities have confirmed.

Hassan Hattab founded the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in 1998.

Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni said he surrendered on 22 September. "We consider him to be repentant", he told a press conference in Paris.

The GSPC grew out of another of Algeria's leading militant groups, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

The GIA took up arms in 1992 after elections were cancelled in which Islamists were poised to win.

Some 150,000 then died in a brutal civil war.

Al-Qaeda link

The Algerian daily newspaper Ech-Chourouk said on Friday that Mr Hattab surrendered in order to benefit from measures set down in a peace and reconciliation charter, aimed at ending almost 15 years of political violence in Algeria.

"As he is involved in several judicial cases, he has to clarify his situation," Mr Zerhouni said in Paris.

In April Mr Hattab, who left the GSPC in 2003, called on its members to lay down their weapons after a bomb attack killed 33 people and injured more than 200 in the capital, Algiers.

Insecurity has been increasing in Algeria, and across North Africa, since the GSPC re-launched itself as al-Qaeda at the beginning of this year.

Mr Hattab said the GSPC, which is now called al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, wanted to turn Algeria into "a second Iraq".

He said members should take advantage of a government amnesty.

SEE ALSO
Algerian PM defiant after bombs
12 Apr 07 |  Africa
Country profile: Algeria
06 May 03 |  Country profiles

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