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Militant leader freed under Algerian amnesty

Written by: Staff

ALGIERS, Mar 13 (Reuters) Algeria freed a jailed founder of the Islamic Armed Group on Sunday, witnesses said, one of the most significant releases yet under a government amnesty aimed at ending more than a decade of civil war.

Abdelhak Layada -- also known as Abu Adlane -- was the leader of the group, known by its French initials GIA. He was arrested in 1993 in Morocco and had been sentenced to death.

The GIA was responsible for massacres of civilians during a period of strife that began in 1992 when the army cancelled elections that radical Islamists were set to win.

The violence cost about 150,000 lives and 20 billion dollar in economic losses.

Family members told Reuters Layada left the Serkadji prison in Algiers yesterday.

His release was made possible under a government decree that also gives guerrillas still fighting six months to surrender and be pardoned, provided they were not responsible for massacres, rapes and bombings of public places.

On March, 6 the government, which plans to release 2,629 Islamists, freed the deputy chairman of the banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), Ali Belhadj, who had been detained for praising attacks by anti-US insurgents in Iraq.

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