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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Five killed in Algeria campsite shoot-out -reports

ALGIERS, July 12 (Reuters) - Islamist militants shot dead five municipal guards at a campsite in an Algerian coastal town, weeks before the expiry of an amnesty aimed at ending years of strife, newspapers reported on Wednesday.

Two campers were also wounded when the rebels attacked the site in Larhat, near Tipasa, some 130 km (80 miles) west of the capital Algiers on Monday night, daily newspapers El Watan and El Khabar said, citing witnesses.

The five victims were ensuring security for around 50 families at the campsite when the assailants surprised them shortly before midnight, the papers said.

The rebels set fire to three vehicles and grabbed campers' mobile phones and other personal belongings before fleeing into a forest nearby.

The authorities were not immediately available to comment.

The newspapers did not identify the attackers but security experts usually blame such killings on the al Qaeda-aligned Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which opposes the amnesty offered by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The government says around 2,200 jailed rebels have been freed under the amnesty. Those still at large have been offered a pardon provided they were not involved in massacres, rapes and bombings of public places.

The peace offer came into force in February and will expire at the end of August.

Violence has subsided in recent years following a decade of civil strife that cost the lives of 200,000 people.
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