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Sunday, 9 September, 2001, 19:56 GMT 20:56 UK
Gunmen kill 10 in Algeria
A funeral for other Algerians massacred in Ain Tagourait
Islamists are blamed for a spate of recent massacres
By North Africa correspondent
David Bamford

There are reports of a new armed attack by suspected Islamists in Algeria, near the country's second city Oran.

At least 10 people are reported to have been killed and nine injured when they were attacked after attending a funeral ceremony.

The victims of these latest killings in Algeria had just taken part in an evening funeral ceremony in the town of Arzew, east of Oran.

Security forces say the attackers sprayed the procession of mourners with automatic weapons fire.

Ten people were killed and another nine wounded, four of them seriously.

Militant tactics

This is the first Islamist attack in the Oran region of this magnitude in several years.

Till now, this area has been spared the worst of the unrest.

But the attack seems to be part of a change in tactics by the militants, who in the past three weeks have targeted beach resorts and for the first time in two years, the city centre of Algiers, where a bomb injured more than 30 people.

More particularly, the attack was close to the sea terminal of some of Algeria's main gas pipelines, a strategically vital area for the country's economy.

Political message

So far, there has been no attempt by the Islamists to sabotage the pipelines themselves.

But this latest attack may well be intended as a political message for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as he wrestles with a series of problems, including whether to offer concessions to the ethnic Berber community.

The Islamists and the Berbers are political enemies, and any concessions given to one is regarded by the other as a cause for protest.

algerian timeline puffobx
See also:

24 Aug 01 | Middle East
Toll rises in Algeria attack
07 Jul 01 | Middle East
Algeria violence kills 16
05 Jul 01 | Middle East
Algeria shuts out Berber protesters
24 Sep 00 | Middle East
Algeria violence returns after lull
13 Jan 00 | Middle East
Analysis: An unstable peace
12 Jul 00 | Middle East
Algerian anti-rebel drive failing
20 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
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