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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Algerian rebels kill 8 security guards - reports

ALGIERS, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Suspected Islamic rebels shot dead eight Algerian municipal guards in the worst attack on government security forces since the expiry of an amnesty aimed at ending years of strife, newspapers reported on Tuesday.

The victims were praying near a checkpoint in Ain Defla province about 150 kms (93 miles) southwest of the capital Algiers when around 12 Islamic militants attacked them late on Sunday, El Watan and Liberte dailies said.

The assailants, believed to belong to the al Qaeda-aligned Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), took the victims' weapons before fleeing to a neighbouring village.

The authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The attack came three days after rebels killed the head of a provincial council near Tizi Ouzou, the main city in the Kabylie region east of Algiers.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has vowed to crush militants refusing to surrender after the six-month amnesty expired on Aug. 31.

The government says up to 300 guerrillas have surrendered since it came into force on Feb. 28, but experts say several hundred more die-hard rebels are still fighting.

Most are believed to belong to the GSPC, which is on a United States list of terrorist organisations.

The insurgency and the military's efforts to crush it have killed up to 200,000 people since the revolt broke out in 1992 when the authorities cancelled parliamentary elections that a now-banned radical Islamist party was poised to win.

The amnesty gives immunity to any rebel who surrenders, provided they have not committed massacres, rape or bombings of public places.
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