Islamists slip Algerian army to massacre 54

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Suspected Muslim rebels, ignoring an army assault on their bases near Algiers, massacred up to 54 people near Algeria's main oil and gas centre, Algerian reports said yesterday.

Most of the victims, their throats cut and bodies mutilated, were women and men aged under 30, Algerian newspapers said. The attack was the worst single massacre in the Oran region of western Algiers which has largely been spared the violence which erupted nearly six years ago.

The massacre took place as the Algerian military was claiming success in an offensive against bases of the radical Armed Islamic Group (GIA) near Algiers and in the countdown to local elections next week. The ballot will restore elected officials to the country's 1,500 townhalls and 48 provincial authorities for the first time in seven years. -Reuters