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Sunday, 24 December, 2000, 16:53 GMT
Analysis: Algeria's discredited peace
Relatives of Algeria massacre victims in 1997
Algeria has been rocked by killings since 1992
By Tom Porteous

According to Algerian press reports, more than 300 people - many of them members of the country's security forces - have been killed over the past month in a dramatic escalation of the violent campaign by armed Islamist groups to overthrow the military-backed regime.

The wave of killings has ended what many had hoped was a permanent reduction of violence, following the launch of a peace initiative last year by President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika.

Troops search Islamist suspects in Algiers suburb
Violence has continued outside the capital despite tight security
The Algerian conflict has been going on since 1992, when the army stepped in to cancel legislative elections and ban the party which was on the point of winning them - the Islamic Salvation Front or FIS.

Since the start of the armed conflict, the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan has been marked each year by an upsurge of attacks by the Islamist groups.

No end in sight

This year the violence has not only been particularly deadly, it has also dashed hopes that President Bouteflika's peace initiative might lead to a permanent end to the Algerian civil war.

Launched in July 1999, the initiative led to a deal between the regime and the Islamic Salvation Army, the armed wing of the FIS.

The deal offered the Islamist fighters an amnesty in return for giving up the armed struggle.

It also held out the prospect of the release of Islamist militants from prison and the unbanning of the FIS.

Deadly precision

More than a year on and the FIS is still banned and its leaders are still behind bars. As a result, many of those fighters who took advantage of the regime's amnesty to lay down their weapons are now returning to the conflict.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Bouteflika's initiative was rejected by hardline groups
In the forests and mountains of northern Algeria, they are joining the more extreme rebel factions, like the Armed Islamic Group and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which rejected President Bouteflika's intitiative from the start.

These groups - which have borne the brunt of a security crackdown by the army over the past year - have now managed to reorganise themselves.

Over the past few weeks they have proved that they are able to strike with deadly precision at both civilian and military targets in many different parts of the country.

Unless President Bouteflika can somehow salvage his discredited peace initiative, there is every sign that the violence will continue for the foreseeable future.

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See also:

24 Dec 00 | Middle East
'Rebels' kill Algerian singer
21 Dec 00 | Middle East
Amnesty condemns Algeria killings
18 Dec 00 | Middle East
Algeria hit by three massacres
11 Oct 00 | Middle East
Algeria violence kills 24
20 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
12 Jul 00 | Middle East
Algerian anti-rebel drive failing
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