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Clayre Gribben reports for BBC News
"The peace plan has brought hope"
 real 28k

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"The authorities say over 1,000 former rebels have surrendered"
 real 28k

Friday, 14 January, 2000, 03:22 GMT
Call for Islamist releases

govt soldiers Algerian troops will be merciless towards Islamists who fail to surrender

The outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) of Algeria has urged President Bouteflika to release its leaders and other FIS members as an amnesty deadline expired.

The president had earlier promised a merciless war against those who refuse to surrender themselves and their weapons.

The Thursday deadline of midnight expired without incident and a BBC correspondent in North Africa says it now seems likely that this deadline will be at least informally extended.

Algeria transition
1992: Military halts elections when first round favours Islamists
1992 - 1999: Violence erupts. Tens of thousands killed
April 1999: President Bouteflika elected
July 1999: Islamists renounce armed struggle. Parliament adopts amnesty for militants. President frees 2,300 militants

The FIS, Algeria's main opposition group, formally dissolved its military wing, the AIS, earlier this week.

But the group blamed for most civilian killings, the GIA, has so far rejected the government's offer of a partial amnesty in return for giving up its weapons.

The government troops had been deployed in preparation to root out those who do not comply.

Reports say thousands of soldiers, including paratroopers, landed in one of the main areas of rebel activity - the coastal city of Jijel, 220km (137 miles) east of Algiers.

Artillery pieces and scores of helicopter gunships have been sighted in nearby mountainous areas, and warships are stationed off the coast.

Large-scale military activity has also been seen in the Tizi-Ouzou, Boumerdes and Ain Defla regions.

Opposition split

About 100,000 people are said to have been killed in Algeria since 1992, when the government annulled a general election in which an Islamic party had taken a commanding lead.

Algerian amnesty
Agreed in July 1999
GIA: Rejected amnesty
Da'wa wal Djihad: Rejected amnesty
AIS: Accepted amnesty
More than 1,000 rebels have surrendered

Algerian politicians say the GIA and another group, the Da'wa wal Djihad, will be targeted when the amnesty period finishes.

The two groups have been accused of killing more than 600 people since the start of the amnesty last July.

They want Algeria to become an Islamic state that would follow Sharia law.

President Bouteflika President Bouteflika: Amnesty or merciless war
It is not clear if AIS fighters will take part in any anti-rebel operation, but its leader has repeatedly said his 8,000 men are ready to join the army in the fight against the radicals.

Since the AIS declared a truce in October 1997, its forces have largely remained in their barracks.

The FIS was the group set to win the 1992 election that the military cancelled, sparking the cycle of violence.

President Bouteflika's peace move offered amnesty, with a probation period, to rebels who had not killed, bombed or raped.

For those who had killed, raped or bombed, the maximum sentence was to be 20 years.

Mr Bouteflika, who came to power in April in a controversial presidential election, has said he is determined to bring peace to Algeria.

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