Algerian rebels kill 15 pupils in boarding school dormitory

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The Independent Online

Algerian rebels machine-gunned to death 15 students and a teacher as they lay in their beds at a boarding school, hospital sources said yesterday.

Algerian rebels machine-gunned to death 15 students and a teacher as they lay in their beds at a boarding school, hospital sources said yesterday.

Other pupils dived under their beds as the gunfire erupted in their dormitory, most escaping unhurt although six were wounded.

About six rebels in military uniform burst into the dormitory of the Lycée Technique of Medea, 55 miles south of Algiers, on Saturday night and fired with sub-machine guns at the sleeping boys, aged between 17 and 19.

"Fifteen pupils and the school principal were killed and six other children suffered serious wounds," a doctor at Medea's main hospital said.

The doctor, who treatedsurvivors, said the raid lasted about 10 minutes. He added that scores of pupils had escaped injury by diving under their beds when the shooting began. The school caters for pupils of both sexes, but the raid was confined to the boys' dormitory.

Islamic fundamentalists have stepped up their attacks since the start, three weeksago, of the holy month of Ramadan which they traditionally see as the sacred period for their struggle.

More than 100 people, including rebels, government troops and civilians have been killed so far this month.

Political sources speculated that the school was attacked because the rebels wanted to attract media attention with a spectacular attack.

Medea province is one of the main strongholds of the radical Armed Islamic Group (GIA) which has rejected a peaceinitiative started last year by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. There has been an upsurge in violence in the Medea area recently, and on Wednesday last week up to 12 Algerian soldiers were killed in an ambush at Ksar El-Boukhari.

Algerian press reports said security forces fired missiles from helicopters to kill 18 armed Islamic extremists in an offensive against the rebels between Tuesday and Thursday of last week. The security forces launched the attack in the Jijel region, east of Algiers, after extremists killed nine communal guards in an ambush in the same region.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since 1992 in Algeria in a fundamentalist insurgency which began after the army-backed authorities cancelled a general election which Muslim fundamentalists were poised to win. (Reuters)

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