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Monday, August 14, 2006


Algiers, 14 August (AKI) - The Salafite Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) has stepped up attacks in Algeria in recent days ahead of the 31 August deadline for a government amnesty for Islamic militants who want to hand themselves in and who have not been involved in bloody attacks. Islamic militants on Saturday exploded five bombs against a military patrol in Maazula, and four bombs went off earlier at al-Qadiriya 80 km west of Algiers. Both attacks were in areas where the government had deployed large numbers of troops ahead of an expected offensive against the Islamic terror groups who have sought refuge in the mountains.

While the al-Qaeda linked GSPC, which has rejected the amnesty offer outright, has stepped up its attacks as the deadline draws near, the government is reportedly preparing an unprecedented offensive against Islamic militants.

Algerian government sources contacted by the Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat referred to the "last quarter hour for terrorist groups" and a massive offensive in September against the refuges of Islamic militants in mountain areas where an estimated 300 hard line combattents are holed up, unwilling to give up their armed struggle against the Algerian institutions.

Algerian Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni announced at the end of June that 200 Islamic militants had turned themselves in under an amnesty approved in February to end years of violence following the country's civil war. The authorities had identified up to 800 militants who could benefit from the amnesty regulations.

The amnesty, which expires on 31 August, was part of reconciliation measures to finally end years of a civil war in which estimated 200,000 people have died.

It gives Islamic militants six months to surrender and receive a pardon provided they were not responsible for massacres, rapes or bombings.

The authorities have freed 2,200 jailed militants under the deal which also provides compensation for victims of the violence.

The civil war broke out in 1992 when authorities canceled a parliamentary election that radical Islamists were slated to win.

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