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Prints Match Bomb ‘Coordinator’s’

February 17, 1998

PARIS (AP) _ Fingerprints of a man killed by Algerian security forces in May match those of a suspect thought to be the coordinator of a deadly 1995 bombing wave in France, sources close to the investigation said Monday.

Ali Touchent, alias Tarek, had been tried in absentia in November as part of a network of Islamic militants suspected of a major support role in the bombings, which killed eight and injured 160.

The network allegedly provided funds, arms and logistical support in Europe to the Algerian-based Armed Islamic Group, which was blamed for the 1995 bombings and claimed responsibility for some.

Other suspected members of the network _ some in absentia _ were tried simultaneously, and a verdict is expected Wednesday. Prosecutors had sought a 10-year prison term for Touchent.

Algerian authorities announced Friday that Touchent had been killed in an Algiers hotel May 23. France immediately asked for fingerprints of the dead man to see whether they matched those of Touchent in Paris.

The fingerprints were analyzed by several police services that confirmed the match, according to sources close to the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Touchent, 30, was the only man French police could not locate when they uncovered the network, which had spread to several European countries.

The Armed Islamic Group is blamed by Algerian authorities for much of the violence that has wracked the North African nation since 1992, leaving an estimated 75,000 people dead.

The violence was triggered by an army decision to cancel legislative elections to thwart a likely victory by the Islamic Salvation Front, the main Muslim fundamentalist party, which has been outlawed.

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