Hundreds murdered in widespread Algeria attacks
January 6, 1998
Web posted at: 3:22 p.m. EST (2022 GMT)
From Correspondent Margaret Lowrie
RELIZANE PROVINCE, Algeria (CNN) -- A blood-soaked bed and a bloodied baby bottle were stark testimony to a new round of savagery in Algeria Tuesday.
Scores of children were orphaned and as many as 170 others
are dead as villages in western Algeria were hit with two new
No one has claimed responsibility for the violence, but
Algeria's frequent bombings and bloody massacres are most
often blamed on Muslim militants who want to overthrow the
secular government and create a state based on Koranic law.
"I don't understand. They say they want to defend their
religion, (but) do you defend your religion by killing women
and children?" asked one man in light of the recent round of
killing. "I don't think they are defending Islam."
Algerian newspapers said as many as 400 people have died in
an upsurge of violence that began last Tuesday with the start
of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In the small village of Meknassa, near the western town of
Relizane, the French-language daily newspaper La Tribune
reported that 117 villagers were killed early Sunday.
Relizane was the scene of a brutal massacre December 30, the
first day of Ramadan, when armed marauders killed more than
400 people in four villages in the area.
|French Journalist Catherine Tardrew describes the scene in
221K/20 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
South of Algiers, in the isolated mountain hamlet of Souk el
Had, 28 people were killed, according to another newspaper,
the pro-government L'Authentique.
The remainder of the casualties occurred in scattered attacks
south of Algiers.
Reports said several villages came under attack Tuesday,
their inhabitants burned alive or their throats cuts.
Saad Djebbar, an Algerian lawyer, said he believes the massacres were done in the name of politics, not religion.
"I think in the name of dirty politics, because whatever was
done constitutes a crime against humanity and I think (the)
Algerian government has (the) capability to chase these
people and bring them to justice," he said.
There is reportedly some speculation among Algerians and some
human rights organizations that thegovernment itself may be
behind some of the incidents.
At least 60,000 people, and possibly twice as many more, have
been killed since 1992, when Algeria's military regime
canceled elections after Islamic parties won the first round.
Some believe, at the very least, the government benefits from
the violence because the fear distracts people.
"Once you isolate violence from both sides ... it makes the
people start to think about themselves, about their economic
problems, about their social problems," Djebbar said.
The latest round of violence has prompted concern in several
European capitals as well as in Washington, D.C., from which
there have been appeals to end the slaughter and calls for
the Algerian government to do more to protect its people.
On Tuesday, European Union nations were studying a German
proposal to help the Algerian government combat terrorism and
send aid to victims of the wave of massacres.
But officials said Europe's scope for action was limited.
"We have to be extremely careful about what to do. It's not
as if we have many options," said Belgian Foreign Minister
Algeria is the world's eighth-largest supplier of natural
gas, and Western European governments appear reluctant to
make any moves that could disrupt economic relations.