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The BBC's Jim Muir
"Many other Algerians have been killed in recent months"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 02:52 GMT
Algerian president condemns killing
Abdelkader Hachani had reservations about the peace plan

The Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has deplored the killing of a senior leader of the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).

In a statement broadcast on television, Mr Bouteflika strongly condemned the killing of Abdelkader Hachani, saying it was proof that the enemies of reconciliation in Algeria were waiting for opportunities to strike.

"All means will be mobilised to unmask the forces of evil and treachery," he was quoted as saying.

Mr Hachani was shot dead by an unknown gunman as he entered a dental clinic near his home in the Bab el-Oued residential district of central Algiers.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Hachani was regarded as an astute political leader
An FIS spokesman in London blamed "eradicators" in the country's political circles - a term it uses for those who want Islamic militants removed from Algerian life.

Others speculated that the radical Armed Islamic Group could be behind the killing.

BBC North Africa correspondent Heba Saleh says Mr Hachani's death deprives the FIS of a man regarded by many as its most astute political leader, and one who might have been able to engineer its future return to politics.

Mr Hachani led the party to its landslide victory in the first round of legislative elections in 1991, before the army stepped in and cancelled the poll. Algeria was subsequently plunged into violence which claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Mr Hachani was arrested when he called on the army to respect the constitution, and was jailed for five years.

Low profile

After his release in 1997, he kept a low profile because of a court order prohibiting him from engaging in politics.

"Each time we see a ray of hope, a new tragedy befalls Algeria,"
Abdelaziz Belkhadem.
However, he made it clear he was opposed to the decision by his party's armed wing, the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS), to cease its military activities.

The AIS and the Algerian army negotiated a secret deal which resulted in an announcement earlier this year that the group was placing itself under the authority of the state.

Mr Hachani apparently regarded the move as an attempt by the military-backed authorities to stage manage a reconciliation with the Islamists without making any real political concessions.

He was also known to have had reservations about a plan put forward by President Bouteflika aimed at ending the violence in Algeria. The plan was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum.

Front sources say the assassination aims to send a message to Islamists that their fate would be similar to Mr Hachani's if they harboured ambitions for a political return.

Week of violence

Politicians are warning that Hachani's death, could further aggravate the country's political crisis.

"Each time we see a ray of hope, a new tragedy befalls Algeria," said former parliament speaker Abdelaziz Belkhadem.

The killing of Mr Hachani comes after the worst week of violence in Algeria since Mr Bouteflika was elected in April, vowing to end the seven-year insurgency.

On Saturday, 15 people were killed and eight wounded in an attack at a roadblock south of the capital.

In a separate attack earlier in the week, about 20 people, mostly women and children, were killed.

On Sunday, a child was killed and three wounded when militants bombed a school bus.

President Bouteflika has given Islamic militants until 13 January to apply for pardons under an amnesty and warned that those who do not risk harsh treatment at the hands of the state.

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See also:
23 Nov 99 |  Monitoring
Algerian press denounces killing
17 Sep 99 |  Africa
Algerian vote 'victory for peace'
17 Sep 99 |  Africa
Analysis: Bouteflika emerges victorious
16 Sep 99 |  Africa
Analysis: A people tired of conflict

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