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Monday, January 12, 1998 Published at 14:50 GMT

World: Middle East

New massacre reported in Algeria
image: [ A young boy and his sister whose family died in a recent massacre ]
A young boy and his sister whose family died in a recent massacre

More than 100 people have been killed in another massacre in Algeria blamed on Islamic extremists.

The BBC's North Africa correspondent Heba Saleh reports (2' 25")
The security forces said another 70 people had been injured in the attack on the village of Sidi Hammed, close to the capital, Algiers.

Many of the victims were women and children.

[ image:  ]
Survivors said the attack came shortly after nightfall as people began to relax after fasting for Ramadan.

It began when a bomb was thrown into a video shop where people had gathered to watch a film.

Many were shot and massacred with knives, swords and axes as they tried to escape.

The area of the latest attack, to the west of Algiers, was a stronghold of the Islamist GIA movement before the army reasserted its authority in 1996.

Since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan started two weeks ago, more than 600 people are reported to have been killed in Algeria.

The military-backed government has blamed Islamic militants for the killings, denying persistant reports of involvement by the security forces.

Finger pointed at government

[ image: Women and children are among the victims]
Women and children are among the victims
Earlier, a leading Iranian official, the Parliament Speaker, Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, accused the Algerian government of involvement in a series of massacres.

"Evidence shows that it is the government that has armed the groups and set them against Muslims," he said in remarks reported by Iranian radio.

Mr Nateq-Nouri made the charge as the Iranian Foreign Ministry explored the possibility of playing a role in trying to end the bloodshed in Algeria.

The Iranian Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, has spoken by phone to his counterparts in Italy and Greece on the subject.

Foreign countries seek ways to end the violence

There is growing international concern about the situation in Algeria, which has been racked by civil conflict since the authorities cancelled elections six years ago when an Islamic opposition party was poised to win.

The European Union is sending a mission to Algiers to discuss the situation - the first such intervention by the EU in the current conflict.

[ image: Details of the latest atrocities]
Details of the latest atrocities
The army-backed government in Algeria agreed to the EU visit, but reiterated its rejection of any international inquiry into the massacres.

The Arab League's information minister, Mohab Moqbel, is visiting Algeria to express the League's solidarity with the Algerian government.

Mr Moqbel told the BBC that the Arab League was not prepared to offer any mediation in the Algerian conflict, and said that the insurgency in Algeria was supported from abroad.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference has also added its voice to condemnation of the recent massacres, saying that such acts were categorically forbidden by Islam and other religions.

The Algerian massacres have been also condemned by the Pope, who said those who killed in the name of God were blasphemers.


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