French families leave Algeria on security worries

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ALGIERS, Oct 6 (Reuters) Families of French nationals working for Michelin in Algeria have been repatriated on fears of a security deterioration in the former French colony, a senior French diplomat and the company said today.

Marc Bouteiller, chief of the French economic mission in Algeria, was speaking to Reuters to confirm a report by local newspaper El Khabar today about the French firm move.

Fabienne de Bredisson, a spokeswoman for Michelin, confirmed the company's repatriation decision but said: ''It's not specific to Michelin. There are a lot of French nationals who have been repatriated ... But there have been no threats and none of our employees have been repatriated.'' She declined to say when the families had left or how many had left.

Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al Zawahri, had called in a recent video for the group's supporters in North Africa to ''cleanse'' their land of Spaniards and French.

Al Qaeda's North Africa wing, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed a suicide car bomb attack on Sept 21 against a police convoy accompanying foreign workers, injuring nine people including two French and one Italian.

It was the second attack on foreigners since March when three Algerians and a Russian were killed in an attack on a bus carrying workers for a Russian gas pipeline construction firm.

Up to 200,000 people have been killed in Algeria since 1992 after military-backed authorities scrapped parliamentary elections that an Islamist party was poised to win.

The violence has subsided in recent years but some bloodshed continues, mainly in Kabylie and nearby areas.

REUTERS SKB KP1850

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