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31 Civilians Killed In Village Massacre

An armed group slaughtered 31 civilians in their village south of the capital, state TV reported Wednesday. It was the bloodiest yet in a series of massacres before a disputed constitutional referendum.

The attackers descended overnight on Sidi Kebir, roughly 30 miles south of Algiers, ENTV reported. It gave no further details, but France Info radio in Paris quoted witnesses as saying gunmen encircled the area before moving in.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on Muslim militants fighting a 4-1/2-year-old insurgency against the government. The uprising began when the government canceled January 1992 parliamentary elections that the Islamic Salvation Front was expected to win.

Fighting since then has killed more than 60,000 people.

The government of President Liamine Zeroual has sought to show it is quelling the violence ahead of the Nov. 28 referendum that would outlaw parties based on religion or language. The Salvation Front has been banned since 1992.

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