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Death toll from Algeria violence falls in October

Written by: Staff
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ALGIERS, Nov 4 (Reuters) The death toll from political violence in Algeria fell last month but casualties among rebels grew as government forces stepped up raids on al Qaeda hideouts, according to a Reuters count based on newspaper reports.

Sixty people - 51 rebels, seven soldiers and two civilians -- were killed in October, bringing to 429 the number of people killed in clashes between government forces and Islamic militants in 2007.

In September 60 civilians and soldiers and 15 rebels died.

Most of the killings in October took place in eastern provinces where the army and security forces launched a counter-offensive on al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb after a failed ssassination attempt on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in September in Batna town east of Algiers.

Bouteflika called the rebel attacks ''purely criminal'' and said the killings were not politically motivated, vowing to press ahead with his reconciliation policy.

Last year the government freed more than 2,000 former Islamist guerrilllas under an amnesty designed to put an end to a conflict that cost the lives of an estimated 200,000 people since 1992.

The conflict erupted after the military-backed government, fearing an Iranian style revolution, scrapped legislative elections that a radical Islamic party was poised to win.

The bloodshed has subsided sharply in recent years from a 1990s peak, but picked up again this year after some north African militants swore allegiance to al Qaeda.

REUTERS NY RK2213

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