Algeria tries to halt strife by Islamist leaders

Tunis (Reuter) - President Liamine Zeroual of Algeria, seeking to end violence in which thousands have died, said he had freed three leading Muslim militants and transferred the two top fundamentalist leaders from jail to a residence. The president of the banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), Abassi Madani, and his deputy Ali Belhadj - both serving 12-year jail terms imposed in 1992 - were transferred from military prison to a residence. 'The measure is aimed at allowing them to give their support to the objective of stopping the violence and bring the restoration of security and stability,' an official statement said. It named the three released men as former FIS senior officials Noureddine Chigara, Abdelkader Omar and Kamel Guemmazi.

Last month, Mr Madani in a letter to President Zeroual suggested a plan of 'national reconciliation', proposing a truce in armed attacks in return for the freeing of Islamist leaders and rehabilitation of the FIS.