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Wednesday, December 31, 1997 Published at 20:53 GMT



Despatches

Seventy-eight die in Algerian massacres

The Algerian security services say 78 people have been killed overnight Tuesday to Wednesday in three separate attacks on villages in the western province of Relizane. State radio said 29 people were killed in the village of Ouled Sahine, 21 in Ouled Kherarba and 28 in Douar Ouled Tayeb. This brings to almost 400 the number of people killed in the last 10 days. The authorities did not identify those behind the massacres, but described them as terrorists - their way of referring to suspected Islamic militants. Our North Africa correspondent, Heba Saleh, reports.

The massacres are the latest in a wave of violence sweeping areas of western Algeria which had previously been regarded as relatively calm. In the past ten days scores of travellers have been butchered at false checkpoints and isolated communities have been decimated in attacks blamed on the Armed Islamic group.

The Algerian authorities have given few details of the latest killings nor have they explained the reasons for this outburst of violence in the west. They have, however, been urging the population to be vigilant.

Advertisements broadcast in recent days have called on citizens to report suspicious individuals and to be on their guard against car bombs. The authorities have also announced new security measures to be enforced in Algiers during the holy month of Ramadan which started on Tuesday.

These include parking bans outside mosques, markets, cafes and other places where people are likely to congregate presenting an easy target for car bombs. In recent years, violence has tended to intensify during Ramadan, which is apparently regarded by some militants as a propitious period for waging their war against the state.






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