December 31, 1997 in Nation/World

Dozens Die In Increased Algerian Violence As Ramadan Observance Begins

Associated Press

The beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan brought more bloodshed to Algeria, where raiders wielding knives and guns and attackers disguised as police killed 72 people.

The death toll in the past 10 days is estimated at more than 300 - victims in a surge of violence blamed on Islamic insurgents that has marked Ramadan in Algeria for the past several years.

The new moon Monday signaled the start of the month of dawn-to-dusk fasting. Last year, violence during the holy month killed more than 400 people in Algeria.

Anticipating an increase in attacks, the army has set up extra roadblocks and multiplied its patrols in Algiers and other areas. But the government seemed unable to halt the frequent massacres in rural regions.

Shortly before dawn Tuesday, marauders slit the throats of 34 people in Ain Boucif, a village about 60 miles south of Algiers, said hospital workers who refused to be identified by name.

Armed attackers set up a fake police roadblock Monday on a highway near the city of Mascara in central Algeria, emergency workers said. After stopping a bus, they killed its 14 passengers and the driver by shooting them or cutting their throats.

The attackers doused many of the victims’ bodies in gasoline and set them on fire, said the emergency workers, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Two motorists, apparently doing some pre-Ramadan shopping, were stopped by the assailants and left for dead. They were in serious condition Tuesday at a hospital in nearby Sidi Bel Abbes.

Sunday night, an armed group used another false roadblock in the region to pull over and slay 17 motorists, shooting three and slitting the throats of the others, residents of the area said.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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