Algerian Insurgency Intensifies: Seven More Foreigners Die
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ Last week, the victims were seven Italian sailors, their throats slit in the night. On Monday, it was the turn of five East European technicians who were forced out of a bus, forced to kneel and shot.
Gunmen believed to be Muslim fundamentalist militants also killed two workers from the former Yugoslavia and two Algerian colleagues in a fashionable restaurant Monday. Two leading Algerian education officials also were gunned down.
The deaths raised to 51 the number of foreigners slain in a dramatic escalation of a campaign by Muslim fundamentalists against the government.
Foreigners were declared a target in September in an effort to deprive the government of technical expertise crucial to Algeria’s oil-and-gas-based economy. Roughly half the foreigners in Algeria a year ago have left.
The attacks have struck hardest at countries that have maintained strong trade links to Algeria, including Russia, Italy and France. Fourteen foreigners have died in less than a week, including the seven Italian sailors slain last week.
Algeria’s official media had played up calls from the Group of Seven industrialized countries over the weekend for dialogue between the government and militants. And on Monday, France, Algeria’s former ruler, announced $1.1 billion in new credit for Algeria this year.
As after every killing, the government said Monday it will do everything it can to track down the gunmen. But the latest attacks further showed the government’s inability to protect foreigners, and a new exodus was expected.
Algeria’s ambassador in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where he was told ″the Russian side cannot put up with a situation when terrorist actions against Russian citizens are repeated,″ a Russian government statement said.
In the first attack, gunmen posing as police stopped a bus belonging to the state-owned Sonatrach oil company at a roadblock in the Algiers suburb of Oued Ouchay, security officials said.
There were conflicting accounts of the nationalities of the five men killed, who were on contract with Sonatrach. Security officials said there were four Russians and one Romanian, while other authorities said they included one Russian, two Belarussians, a Ukrainian and a Romanian.
Witnesses said the five were lined up separately from the Algerians, forced to kneel and were shot.
In the second attack, assailants sprayed gunfire at a restaurant inside the Algiers zoo, killing two technicians from former Yugoslavia and two Algerian colleagues from the state-owned Hydra-Elektra company. Two people were reported wounded.
At least two vehicles were also blown up outside the restaurant, but the circumstances were unclear.
In shootings in separate suburbs, gunmen also killed the director of the National Veterinary School, Mohamed Bekkouche, and the director general of the National Agency for Equipment and Professional Training, Ouramdane Amokrane, security forces said.
About 4,000 people have been killed in political violence since January 1992, when the military cancelled parliamentary elections that the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front was virtually certain to win.
The front was banned and thousands of its supporters detained. In retaliation, fundamentalist guerrillas have waged an insurgency that has included the assassination of scores of political figures, journalists and intellectuals.
The government also has stepped up its campaign against the militants, killing nearly 200 during June and early July, official statements said. Four members of security forces were reported killed.
Many foreign governments have urged their citizens to leave Algeria, and foreign companies have cut their expatriate staffs way back, housing them in highly guarded compounds and hotels.
An estimated 80,000 foreigners, including Algerians with dual nationality, resided in Algeria one year ago, according to official figures. Roughly half are believed to have left since then.
The 1993 figures included 76,000 French and 300 Americans.
Algerian Prime Minister Mokdad Sifi, in an interview carried Sunday by the Algiers daily El Watan, said elections were the only way out of the political crisis. He indicated voting could take place before 1997 if there was adequate stability.
Asked about the possibility of talks with the Islamic Salvation Front, he reiterated willingness to deal with ″all the forces which represent something in this country, but who are not behind violence, who denounce it.″
Sifi has been seeking to improve relations abroad. In recent weeks he visited Brussels, Rome and Paris while his foreign minister was in Washington and Beijing.