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Paris Court Convicts 2 Algerian Terrorists - 2002-10-30

A Paris court convicted and sentenced two Algerians to life in prison late Wednesday for their role in three 1995 terrorist attacks in the French capital, which killed eight people and wounded 200 others.

Boualem Bensaid and Smain Ait Ali Belkacem were handed the most severe penalty possible in France - life imprisonment. That sentence was sought by state public prosecutor Gino Necchi Tuesday, as he wrapped up his case.

Both have several days to file appeals.

34-year-old Bensaid was given life in prison with parole after 22 years, for an October 1995 bombing near a Paris metro station that wounded 18 people. He was also deemed an accomplice in two other metro bombings in 1995, which killed eight people and wounded more than 150. After hearing his sentence, news agencies reported, he simply said "Allah Akhbar" - God is great.

Belkacem, also 34-years-old, was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for his role in a third metro station bombing near the Orsay museum in Paris, which wounded 26 people in October 1995.

The two men are considered members of Algeria's brutal Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which police say staged half a dozen bombings in France, between June and November 1995.

The attacks took place at the height of Algeria's civil war, which pitted Islamist extremists against the country's military-backed government. France was also targeted on grounds of siding with the Algerian government.

Much of the violence has now subsided in Algeria, but members of the GIA fight on. France's Le Monde newspaper reported Wednesday that some GIA guerrillas and those from a splinter movement, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, have reformed in parts of Algeria. Members of both groups are considered to have ties with the Al Quaeda network overseas.

A third suspect in the 1995 bombings, 33-year-old Rachid Ramda, remains in a British prison. A British court refused to extradite him, on grounds he may not receive a fair trial in France. French authorities hope to try him separately at a later period.