Spanish nuns shot dead in Algeria

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The Independent Online
ALGIERS (AFP) - Two Spanish nuns were shot dead yesterday in a working-class district of the Algerian capital. The two Augustine nuns were killed as they were going to prayers in the Bab el Oued area of the city.

Ester Paniagua, 45, died instantly; Maria Alvarez Martine was seriously wounded and died in a military hospital. Spanish radio said that the nuns had lived in Algeria for about 30 years and had refused all requests to leave. The Spanish Foreign Minister, Javier Solana, condemned 'in the strongest possible way . . . the undescribably violent act'.

The killing brings the number of foreigners murdered in Algeria in the past 12 months to 67, including 20 French nationals.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in political violence in Algeria since January 1992, when the authorities cancelled a general election that Islamists were poised to win.

Fundamentalists kidnapped three French consular officials a year ago and released them with a warning to all foreigners to leave the country. The fundamentalists have accused Western governments of supporting the status quo in Algeria, to check the rise of fundamentalism.

The Algerian security forces said on Saturday that they had killed 47 fundamentalist gunmen in the period from Tuesday to Friday last week.