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HVK Archives: Algerian villagers flee homes as Muslim rebels butcher 200

Algerian villagers flee homes as Muslim rebels butcher 200 - The Sunday Times, London

Marie Colvin ()
31 August 1997

Title: Algerian villagers flee homes as Muslim rebels butcher 200
Author: Marie Colvin
Publication: The Sunday Times, London
Date: August 31, 1997

Algerians fled villages near the capital in terror yesterday after Muslim
rebels slaughtered more than 200 people in the worst atrocity since the
Islamic insurgency began five years ago.

Survivors from villages near Blida, a provincial capital 30 miles south of
Algiers, said Muslim rebels armed with axes, knives and guns were "howling
like wolves" as they set about butchering residents of three hamlets on
Thursday night.

Many of the victims were decapitated. The heads were left on their
doorsteps. The dead included- women an children. The government put the
number of casualties at 98 killed and 120 injured. But it was clear from
independent sources that the death toll was far higher. A rescue worker,
who asked not to be identified, said his colleagues thought that "as many
as 300 bodies have been picked up, if not more".

In the village of Rats, survivors gave harrowing accounts of men being
burnt alive, and women and children mutilated after appealing in vain for
mercy. "There were a lot of them. They were armed to the teeth, with
Kalashnikovs, knives, axes," one resident said.

At first he had thought the intruders were from the army, but then he
recognised a local religious leader and his deputy. There were said to he
women among the attackers.

"The people cried and pleaded," said another resident. "No help came, even
though the security forces are close." The attackers took several young
women with them as they left, shouting out to the survivors: "We will come
back to kill those who remain." Young women are often abducted in such
attacks and repeatedly raped before being killed.

Yesterday the government poured troops into the so-called "triangle of
death", an area south of the capital in which bands of militants often
target civilians.

In some cases, attackers appear to be taking revenge on villages that have
government-armed self-defence forces. At other times, there appears to be
no clear motive for the bloodshed, which began in 1992 when the army
cancelled a parliamentary election just as it looked as if the now-banned
Islamic Salvation Front might win. Since then, about 60,000 people are
believed to have been killed.

Brigadier-General Liamine Zeroual, the president, has vowed to stamp out
the "terrorists" and end their attacks. Ahmed Ouyahia, the prime minister,
promised: "The authors of this crime will not go unpunished." He called on
citizens to be particularly alert and to signal to the security forces "any
suspect act".

But some experts say the government itself is inciting the massacres -
through a nebulous chain of intermediaries - or at least purposefully being
ineffective in stopping them so as to justify its campaign against
militants and gain the sympathy of the West.

"If there was no complicity within the state, there would not be so many
massacres," said Ahmed Rouadjia, a Paris-based author of books about
Algeria's army and Muslim fundamentalists.

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