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Algeria rebels kill five including mayor

Written by: Staff

ALGIERS, Mar 25 (Reuters) Algerian militants killed five civilians, including a mayor, stepping up attacks days after the start of an amnesty for rebels aimed at ending more than a decade of strife, residents and newspapers said today.

Suspected members of al Qaeda-linked group the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) shot dead mayor Brahim Jellab outside his house last night in Boumerdes province, 50 km east of the capital Algiers, residents said.

GSPC is the only armed group operating in Boumerdes and the neighbouring province of Tizi Ouzou, Interior Minister Noureddine Zerhouni said last week.

Jellab is the fifth mayor to be assassinated by Islamist gunmen in Bourmedes in the past four years, residents said.

Government forces killed a bombmaker for GSPC during an operation on Thursday in Boumerdes, newspapers said.

Mohamed Mayouz, 38, was shot dead in an ambush, part of an offensive on rebel strongholds.

In a separate attack, two rebels armed with Kalashnikov rifles shot dead four farmers on Thursday near Blida, 50 km south of Algiers, El Watan and Liberte dailies said.

Six government soldiers were injured on Friday in a separate attack when a home-made bomb exploded in Jijel province, 350 km east of Algiers, El Watan added.

Officials were not immediately available for comment.

Algeria began an amnesty this month as part of efforts to end violence that broke out when the authorities cancelled elections in 1992 that a now-banned Islamic party was poised to win. An estimated 200,000 people have been killed since.

The peace drive includes the mass release of jailed Islamic militants as well as compensation for victims, including the families of about 8,000 missing people.

The amnesty gave those rebels still fighting six months to surrender, provided they were not involved in massacres, rapes or bombings of public places.

The authorities have killed 17,000 militants since 1992.

Some 800 rebels are still active, the government said last week.

Reuters SHR VP0008

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