Algerians seek truth on killing

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

ALGIERS (Reuter) - Emotion over the burial of Mohamed Boudiaf, the Algerian head of state, who was assassinated on Monday, gave way yesterday to demands to know whether religious fanaticism or politics inspired his killer, or killers.

'Who organised this conspiracy?' demanded Fatiha, Boudiaf's widow, following the funeral of her husband after just five months in power. 'Who killed Boudiaf?' newspapers asked.

The answer is seen as crucial for the future in a land where Muslim fundamentalists seeking an Islamic state have fought security forces during the past year, bringing alternate clamp-downs and relaxing of restrictions.

Two official versions of the killing, followed by television newsfilm of a subsequent gun battle, suggested more than one killer was involved. The official APS news agency said that the gunman, in police uniform, was shot dead on the spot. Later, the Higher State Council said the man was arrested, and APS then described him as a member of a counter-espionage unit providing security for the head of state.

Algerian newspapers yesterday said he may have confessed to acting for religious reasons. One gave his first name as Boumaarraf, aged 26, from Oum El Bouaghi, an eastern region of strong fundamentalism. It said he was a former pupil of Ali Djeddi, a fundamentalist who is under arrest.

The presidency, in permanent crisis session with the supreme security body, kept silent as an official inquiry into the killing was mounted. Nor was there any official explanation for a second coffin that followed Boudiaf's to the Martyrs' cemetery. Officials said they believed he was a bodyguard killed in the shootout.