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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 15:08 GMT
Suspected rebels kill six in Algeria
Suspected Islamic militants have shot dead six people outside a town near Algiers.

The six were killed at the entrance to El Affroun, 50 km south-west of the capital on Thursday, and the taxi they were travelling in set on fire, Algerian state radio reported.

Security forces immediately began a major search for the attackers.

Rebels from the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) have been active around El Affroun since Algeria's bloody civil war erupted in 1992.

Algerian officials said the six, whose identities have not been given, had been stopped at a bogus road block.

No group has claimed responsibility for the killings.

Election tension

The GIA, Algeria's most lethal Islamic rebel group, rejected an offer from the secular government in 1999 to enter a reconciliation programme aimed at ending the civil war.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Bouteflika: no respite for rebels
Its leader, Antar Zouabri, was killed by security forces near Algiers on 8 February.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in a speech to mark International Women's Day, vowed to fight the rebels "without respite".

Attacks have increased since last week when the president announced that a parliamentary election would be held on 30 May and the death toll since the beginning of March is put at 45.

The civil war broke out after the army cancelled a parliamentary election in December 1991 after an Islamist party took the lead in the first round of voting.

Non-government sources believe that up to 150,000 people have died in the war, with the official toll standing at about 100,000.

See also:

09 Feb 02 | Middle East
Antar Zouabri: A violent legacy
11 Jan 02 | Middle East
Algeria's decade of bloody conflict
18 Sep 01 | Middle East
Algeria tackles Islamic militants
13 Jan 00 | Middle East
Algeria: Country profile
06 Mar 02 | Middle East
Militants 'storm Algerian barracks'
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