Muslim fundamentalist guerrillas massacred eight people in a village in Algeria's Chlef region, 200 kilometer (125 miles) west of the capital, in a ruthless campaign marking Ramadan, a paper said Thursday.
La Tribune reported that the attack came on Wednesday night in the isolated village of Beni Boutaaaba "just before the end of the fast" people observe between sunrise and sunset during the Islamic holy month.
"No details of the circumstances of the drama were available," the paper said. The massacre came hours before gunmen used automatic weapons and axes to kill three children and their parents in a village near Djendel, 110 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of Algiers.
A fourth child was wounded in that attack, witnesses told AFP.
These raids and other incidents, including a bomb attack, in several parts of northern Algeria took the death toll from violence blamed on Islamic extremists opposed to the secular state to at least 110 since Saturday.
A series of brutal massacres has marked the closing days of Ramadan, the lunar month which Islamic extremists regard as particularly auspicious for the waging of jihad, or "holy war".
In all, at least 310 people have been killed -- mainly civilians, but also members of the security forces, local self-defence militias, and a handful of guerrillas hunted down by the army -- since Ramadan began in the last week of November.
The reported bomb blast killed two people and injured 17 others, six seriously, at Tiaret, 340 kilometres (210 miles) west of Algiers, also on Wednesday night, local residents and press reports said Thursday.
An upsurge in atrocities against civilians is blamed on two guerrilla movements which rejected a conditional amnesty offered for six months from July 1999 by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in a bid to end insurgency which has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 1992.
The Armed Islamic Group (GIA), led by Antar Zouabri, and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) of Hassan Hattab oppose Bouteflika's policy of national reconciliation, launched last year.
After more than 1,400 Islamist fighters turned themselves in under the amnesty and the armed wing of the now outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was disbanded, the government has sought to halt the bloodshed that began after the army in January 1992 halted the second round of a general election the FIS was poised to win.
In relative terms, the level of violence had fallen considerably this year until the start of Ramadan, with a death toll of some 2,600 for the whole of 2000 on the basis of press reports -- ALGIERS (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)