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Algeria Vows Crackdown on Islamic Rebels

October 3, 2005

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ Algeria has warned it will crack down severely on Islamic militants who refuse a government amnesty, the nation’s interior minister said.

Algerians voted overwhelmingly last week to approve a peace plan granting amnesty to many of the country’s Islamic extremists, an attempt to turn the page on a brutal insurgency that has left an estimated 150,000 dead.

Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni said late Sunday that security services know that ``recalcitrant terrorists″ will refuse to hand in their weapons. The amnesty offer concerns about 800 to 1,000 militants, Zerhouni said.

Those who refuse the offer will face an ``even more organized crackdown,″ he said, without elaborating. But for years, security forces have been hunting down militants who have rejected previous amnesty offers, hiding out in isolated mountains and brushlands.

Algeria’s insurgency started in 1992 when the army canceled a second round of voting in the country’s first multiparty legislative elections to thwart a likely victory by the now-banned fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front.

Attacks have waned in recent years after reconciliation attempts in 1997 and 1999. Some 10,000 armed militants have turned in their weapons over the years, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said this month.

Many of the militants still active are members of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, a banned Islamic group with ties to al-Qaida. The group rejected the amnesty, though the government expects at least 200 to 300 of its members to take up the offer.

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