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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

284 Algerian gunmen surrender

ALGIERS, Algeria, May 30 (UPI) -- Nearly 300 Algerian gunmen have surrendered to the authorities, benefiting from the pardon available to them under the National Peace and Reconciliation Pact.

The general deputy of the local court in Boumedras province, Mojarab Daoudi, said Tuesday that 284 armed Islamic militants had returned to their homes after all judicial suits against them were dropped in exchange for turning themselves over to the authorities.

Daoudi said the authorities also released 125 gunmen who were previously convicted, also in line with the pact which provides for the liberation of all former rebels who were not involved in massacres, bombings or rapes.

President Abdel Aziz Boutefliqa threatened resisting armed groups who rejected the reconciliation pact with combat if they did not surrender within the six-month grace period, due to expire in July.

The pact was endorsed by a large majority of the Algerian people at a referendum in 2005.

Government figures indicate that between 700 and 800 gunmen are still active in the rugged mountains of east Algeria. At the start of violence in the North African Arab state in 1992, the number of gunmen was estimated at more than 27,000.
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