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Armed Men Kill Leading Member of Moderate Islamic Party

January 27, 1996

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ A group of unidentified gunmen shot and killed a leader of the moderate Islamic political party Hamas, security service officials said Saturday.

Mohamed Bezzaz was leaving a mosque in the center of the Algerian capital Friday evening when he was shot. No one immediately claimed responsibility.

The shooting took place at a time of political uncertainty in Algeria, amid rumors of improving relations between the moderate wing of the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front and the new government of President Liamine Zeroual, who won the country’s first democratic elections last November.

Last week, 16 members of the Islamic Salvation Front’s executive committee offered the government a dialogue ``without preconditions″ on ending four years of civil war that has left 40,000 dead.

The Front has been outlawed since January 1992, when Algeria’s Islamic insurgency began after the government canceled legislative elections the party was poised to win.

The Front was banned from participating in the presidential election, in which Zeroual, a retired army general, won a five-year term.

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