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Algerian Islamic Front Urges Independent Probe into Unrest - 2001-07-30


The banned Algerian political party, the Islamic Salvation Front, is criticizing a government-ordered probe into unrest in the country's ethnic Berber region.

The Islamic Salvation Front says a government appointed investigation into the violence that has racked the Kabliye region since April just does not go far enough. Spokesman Anwar Haddam says an independent inquiry is needed, not only into the Berber unrest, but all the violence that has ravaged Algeria for nearly a decade.

"We hope that President Bouteflika will stand for what he campaigned for - national reconciliation - and will work for it," said Mr. Haddam. "We can't see national reconciliation unless there is a full investigation into the crimes, massacres and atrocities committed against our population in Algeria."

An interim presidential probe has accused the police wing of Algeria's military, known as the gendarmes, of intentional acts of bloodshed against the Berbers in the country's northeast region. It estimated 80 people have died. The reports say that the gendarmes have incited and fanned the violence rather than calmed it.

Bloody clashes erupted after the April killing of a Berber teenager in police custody. Although the violence was initially confined to the Kabylie area, it has spread throughout the oil-rich country, fueled by frustration over high unemployment and perceived widespread corruption.

The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) says it still has the support of most Algerians. Mr. Haddam insists that the Islamist party has in no way participated in the massacres that have claimed some 100,000 lives, since military-backed authorities cancelled the 1990 general election.

Mr. Haddam says the only way forward for Algeria is a freely-elected civilian government that can restore peace and stability after years of public unrest.