Algeria violence death toll at year low in May

Mon Jun 4, 2007 5:33am EDT

ALGIERS, June 4 (Reuters) - The death toll from Islamist rebel attacks and raids by government forces in Algeria dropped to a year low in May, a month after suicide bombings killed 33 people in the capital Algiers.

An estimated 17 people were killed during the month including 15 rebels and two soldiers, compared with a toll of 81 deaths in April, including 28 Islamist rebels, according to a Reuters count based on newspaper reports.

Politically inspired bloodshed killed 45 people in March, 18 in February and 21 in January, bringing the death toll for the first five months of the year to 182.

OPEC member Algeria, emerging from more than a decade of conflict, plunged into violence when the military-backed government scrapped the 1992 legislative elections a radical Islamic party was poised to win. Authorities had feared an Iranian style revolution.

Up to 200,000 people were killed during the ensuing violence.

The killing has subsided sharply in recent years from a 1990s peak, and last year the government freed more than 2,000 former Islamist guerrillas under an amnesty designed to put a definite end to the conflict.

But guerrilla attacks by regrouped Islamist militants persist and on April 11 they carried out their most spectacular attack in recent years by bombing the government headquarters in Algiers and two police buildings, killing 33 people.

The al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an offshoot of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) claimed responsibility for the bombings, the first in the centre of the Mediterranean port city in more than a decade.

The government has said police have arrested the network of guerrillas that carried out the attacks but it is not known if these arrests netted the planners of the bombings.