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Residents Retreat Behind Barricades

Residents of an Algiers suburb retreated behind barricades and armed themselves with hatchets and knives Sunday after screaming marauders massacred at least 87 people over the weekend.

A second night of killing late Saturday reportedly left 45 more people dead in Beni Messous, a suburb 12 miles out from Algiers center.

Details of the attack were not available Sunday, and there was no immediate confirmation of the death toll from hospital sources.

Soldiers dispersed throughout the neighborhood for a few hours Sunday to reassure jittery residents after a flurry of unexplained gunfire.

After the troops left, residents formed their own barricades, armed themselves with crude weapons and denied strangers entry to the area. Some residents took refuge in other parts of the city.

Up to 87 people were killed in a three-hour massacre that began Friday night at 10 p.m. in Beni Messous’ shantytown district, Sidi Youssef. Several Algerian papers Sunday put the death toll at 63.

After surrounding the neighborhood, about 50 knife-wielding men howling like jackals kicked in doors and attacked their victims, most of whom were women.

Families screamed, banged on pots and pans or clapped stones together in a desperate call for help. Security forces arrived at 1 a.m. Saturday, and the assailants fled, according to the accounts of witnesses.

It was the bloodiest massacre within metropolitan Algiers since the start of an Islamic insurgency in 1992 that has left at least 60,000 people dead.

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 Islamic militants seek to establish a government based on strict interpretation of Koranic law, which would require women to cover their heads, ban alcohol and institute compulsory Koranic education.

Such a system is anathema to many secular Algerians who subscribe to Western ways, learned during the French colonial period that lasted more than 130 years and ended in 1962.

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