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Wednesday, 12 July, 2000, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Algerian anti-rebel drive failing
Algerian army
The army's effort is being hampered by shortages
By Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner

Exactly one year has passed since Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika began a campaign aimed at ending a bloody insurrection by Islamist extremists.

But although thousands of Islamist guerrillas handed in their weapons earlier this year, many more remain at large.

One hundred people have been killed in the last week alone, and overall, violence has been claiming around 200 lives a month.

Now, as the death toll rises, doubts are growing about the effectiveness of the government's drive to restore peace.

With almost daily reports of soldiers ambushed on lonely roads, and shepherds killed with a slash to the throat, Algerians have long been used to bad news from the provinces.

Prison releases

President Boutelflika
President Bouteflika had high hopes for the scheme

President Bouteflika launched his 'Civil reconciliation plan' with the release of thousands of Islamists from jail.

He promised that the initiative would soon bring an end to the violence.

The scheme also promised a six-month amnesty for armed guerrillas to come in from the mountains and lay down their arms.

Thousands took up the offer and have returned to society.

But an unknown number are still fighting on, and casualty figures continue to rise from attacks by groups the government dismiss as bandits.

Campaign floundering

El-Khadi Ihsane, an Algiers-based journalist writing for the Algeria Interface website, has drawn attention to what he sees as a number of weaknesses in the government offensive.

Algerian police
Rebel activity continues despite the crackdown

The article suggests that the initiative is far from the ruthless crackdown promised, because the campaign is "floundering in the face of handicaps like under-equipment, poor communication lines and the high cost of logistics".

Two offensives against rebel strongholds, the mountainous areas of Warsenis in the west and Babors in the east have failed, he says.

More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Algeria since its civil war began in 1992.

Hard core

Many people fear the rebels will be hard to defeat because they were so well motivated.

Algerian police
The death toll is mounting as violence increases

Both the two rebel groups still at large say they are fighting to establish a pure Islamic state in Algeria.

Although many resort to stealing food to survive, they appear to be convinced that their cause is a just one.

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See also:

10 Jul 00 | Africa
Upsurge in Algerian rebel attacks
06 May 00 | Middle East
Algerian offensive against rebels
13 Jan 00 | Middle East
Analysis: An unstable peace
11 Jan 00 | Middle East
Algerian rebel group disbands
13 Jan 00 | Middle East
Algeria: Country profile
07 Dec 99 | Middle East
Analysis: Algeria's troubled truce
07 Dec 99 | Middle East
Call to end Algeria truce
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