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Large arms cache found in Algeria - paper

Written by: Staff

ALGIERS, Mar 27 (Reuters) Algerian government forces found a large weapons cache in an area that saw repeated massacres of civilians during rebel attacks in strife that lasted more than a decade, a newspaper reported today.

The find in Ain Defla province, 150 km southwest of the capital Algiers, was found on Saturday, three weeks after the launch of an amnesty for rebels aimed at ending a conflict that cost the lives of 200,000 people since 1992.

The hiding place of weapons contained a significant quantity of ammunition, Kalashnikov rifles, some 30 rockets, automatic guns, more than 30 detonators and about 100 home-made bombs, said El Watan, which is well-informed on security matters.

Government soldiers also seized huge quantities of medical drugs and electricity cables, the newspaper added, citing a security source.

Officials were not immediately available for comment. They rarely comment on security-linked questions.

The newspaper said it believed the arms cache belonged to the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which has been on a U.S. list of terrorist organisations.

Hundreds of people were massacred in attacks in Ain Defla by Islamist militants between 1994 and 1998.

The latest security sweep in Ain Defla is part of an offensive on rebel strongholds throughout the country.

Government soldiers shot dead a bombmaker for GSPC on Thursday in Boumerdes province, some 50 km east of Algiers.

GSPC stepped up attacks in Boumerdes last week, killing five civilians, including a mayor.

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

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

An Islamist insurgency broke out after the authorities cancelled legislative elections in 1992 that a now-banned Islamic party was poised to win.

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


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