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22 Killed by Suspected Rebels

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From Reuters

Suspected Algerian Islamic rebels wearing military fatigues stormed an isolated town and shot and knifed to death 22 people, several of them at a wedding, witnesses and residents said Thursday.

The bride and groom escaped unhurt, the groom because he was late for the wedding. Victims included a 2-month-old baby girl and a 4-year-old girl whose throats were slit.

The raids Wednesday night in the small town of Larba, about 15 miles southwest of Algiers, were the latest in a bloody insurgency that has pitted Islamic guerrillas against the military-backed government since 1992.

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The official news agency APS confirmed the death toll of 22 in two attacks in Larba, quoting security forces.

Six men armed with sub-machine guns burst into the garage of the home of Brahim Said, who was celebrating the wedding of his daughter, witnesses said. About a hundred guests were in attendance, most of them upstairs.

“I lost nine relatives in the attack,” Said said.

Most of the guests took refuge on the first floor of the house.

“They [attackers] ran after us and I locked a metal door that leads to the first floor . . . I could hear the bullets hitting the door as they tried to break in,” Said recalled.

Seven people were wounded.

The assailants then moved to a nearby house where they slit the throats of a mother and her two young daughters, residents said.

An angry resident said: “We’ve been asking authorities for five years now to give us weapons; all we get is a deaf ear.”

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Algeria since the cancellation in January 1992 of general elections that Muslim fundamentalists were poised to win.

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