September 7, 1997 in Nation/World

Dozens Killed In Algeria Massacre Nighttime Attackers Slit Throats Of At Least 87 In Neighborhood

Rachid Khiari Associated Press
 

Swinging hatchets and howling like jackals, attackers bloodied a secluded neighborhood outside Algiers, kicking open doors to slit the throats of entire families, survivors said Saturday. The nighttime massacre killed at least 87.

Families banged on pots and pans and smashed stones together in a desperate attempt to summon help during the three-hour attack on an outlying neighborhood of the town of Beni Messous, 12 miles west of Algiers, late Friday and early Saturday.

“We heard victims screaming and cries for help, but no one came,” one of those who escaped told The Associated Press.

About 100 people were injured in the attack, officials at Beni Messous and Algiers Maillot hospitals said. They spoke on condition they not be identified.

The roughly 50 marauders left only when government security forces arrived early Saturday. Although no one claimed responsibility for the massacre, it fit the pattern of deadly assaults by Islamic militants waging a 5-year-old insurgency against Algeria’s military regime. The attack was just one of many Friday in the bloodied nation - violence elsewhere killed another 72 people.

The Front for Socialist Forces said its members in the area put the death toll in the massacre at 151, and the Movement for a Peaceful Society, a moderate Islamic party, said it learned the death toll was 150.

The massacre was the deadliest since an Aug. 29 rampage in the village of Rais, south of Algiers, where attackers killed up to 300 people.

Witnesses said the attackers burst into the neighborhood at Beni Messous about 10 p.m. Friday.

“They kicked the door in, took the men, forced them outside, slit their throats,” one woman - the sole survivor of her family - told The Associated Press.

“They came back, took out my aunt and slit her throat, after slashing open her stomach,” said the woman, who identified herself only by her family’s name, Benbrahin.

The woman escaped through a window of her home, then hid in a nearby forest until daybreak.

Residents said the invaders howled like jackals - an eerie rallying cry often mentioned by survivors of previous massacres. Most of the victims were women.

Beni Messous is home to a military barracks, and there was no immediate explanation for why help did not come sooner. Algeria’s government had no immediate comment.

By midday, some frightened inhabitants of Beni Messous were fleeing. In one shattered household, scattered pots and baby bottles lay among a thickening pool of blood on the floor.

Locals feared there was nowhere to hide from the night attacks.

More than 60,000 Algerians have been killed since the start of the nation’s Islamic insurgency, triggered when the army canceled 1992 parliamentary elections that an Islamic group was poised to win.

The attack comes in a wave of new violence that rose after June 5 parliamentary elections - the first since the canceled vote.

The massacre at Beni Messous was only the bloodiest of many attacks on Friday.

At Blida, 30 miles south of the capital, a bomb planted under a seat of a bus killed four people and injured 27, Algerian newspapers said.

At Saida, southwest of Algiers, four members of the Algerian Renewal Party - all reportedly candidates in scheduled Oct. 23 local elections - had their throats slit at a fake police blockade, the papers said.

Another 16 people were killed in a series of attacks early Friday in the same region.

Security forces, on orders to “eradicate” the insurgents, killed 48 Muslim militants near Chrea, the mountainous region outside Blida, and 20 others in the Djerba region, also south of Algiers, the newspapers reported.


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