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Saturday, 28 April, 2001, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Algerian military suffers heavy blow
Riots in Algeria
Berber riots coincided with the anniversary of the Berber Spring

By the BBC's North Africa reporter, David Bamford

At least 40, and possibly more than 60 members of the Algerian security forces have been killed in a clash with armed Islamist militia in the north east of the country, reports say.

Algeria is experiencing some of its most violent days in many months.

Algerian newspapers say members of the armed forces together with civilian guards encountered the Islamists while they were searching a village.

The clash coincides with reports of continuing unrest in the mainly ethnic Berber region of Kabylie where at least 15 people have been reported killed.

Algeria is experiencing some of its most violent days in many months.

Coming off badly

Islamist unrest has been on the upsurge for some time in villages right along the northern coast and in the latest clash, the army appears to have come off very badly.

President Bouteflika
Bouteflika: Amnesty offer has failed
As usual there is no official confirmation of the reports of up to 60 soldiers being killed - the details have emerged in local newspapers quoting security sources.

However, the government has not been reluctant to give details of violence taking place elsewhere involving ethnic Berber people.

The Berbers are traditionally as hostile to the Islamists as they have been to the Algerian military which they say controls the civilian government and denies them their cultural rights.

A wave of Berber demonstrations has degenerated into direct clashes with the security forces.

The authorities put the number of protesters killed in the last few days at 15, but the figure may well be higher.

The growing unrest in Algeria is likely to provoke further open criticism of the current civilian government of President Bouteflika whose hopes of bringing an end to nearly a decade violence by offering an amnesty to the Islamist militants has failed.

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See also:

05 Jul 98 | Middle East
Only Arabic for Algeria
04 Jul 98 | Middle East
Berbers protest at Matoub killing
28 Jun 98 | Middle East
The Berbers: fighting on two fronts
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
02 Jan 01 | Africa
Moroccan Berbers press for rights
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