Algerian murder mystery deepens

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The Independent Online
ALGIERS (Reuter) - The man accused of assassinating the Algerian head of state, Mohamed Boudiaf, said he got the idea after reading Muslim fundamentalist books. But he went drinking in a discotheque the night before the killing.

This was one of many puzzles in an hour of previously secret video footage screened to invited groups of reporters on Monday by the six-person commission investigating the assassination. It showed the moment Boudiaf was shot as he gave a speech at a cultural centre in the eastern town of Annaba on 29 June and the interrogation of the Special Intervention Group (GIS) officer, Lembarek Boumaref, who is accused of pulling the trigger.

But the video did nothing to solve the deepening mystery surrounding the killing. Mr Boumaref said on the tape the murder was his own idea but the commission has already said it does not believe he acted alone.

The newspaper Republican Algiers commented on its front page yesterday: 'This film will, it is certain, confirm people's conviction that the assassination was too well carried out to have been an isolated action.'

The more cautious diplomats in Algiers warn there is no real proof the assassination was a plot. Fatal lapses in security arrangements for Boudiaf could be explained by incompetence. Others say belief in a conspiracy has taken such hold that the murder may well remain a subject of speculation, whatever is officially published.

The video did not show the assassin before, during or immediately after the killing. But the commission's spokesman was quoted a week ago by the newspaper El Watan as saying the accused man appeared 'fairly clearly' in the footage. He also said the video was 62 minutes long but the footage shown to reporters lasted only 58.

The crucial sequence showed Boudiaf sitting at a table in front of a green curtain. A shape like a black mouse, which a narrator said was a grenade, scuttled across the floor. There was an explosion, then a fusillade of shots and the back of Boudiaf's head exploded. He collapsed forward on to the table and a shape moved behind the curtain. But the assassin himself did not appear.

The narration on the video said Mr Boumaref had been in charge of the 11-man GIS team that had taken up position behind the curtain because he was the only one with a radio. He was shown telling an interrogator: 'I took advantage of . . . being in charge and of being near the president.'