Algerian Militants Kill Former Prime Minister

MUSLIM militants shot dead former Algerian Prime Minister Kasdi Merbah in an ambush on Saturday, the official APS news agency reported.

Merbah is the first Algerian opposition leader to be assassinated by the gunmen in their campaign of violence against the state. A military security chief under Algeria's former Socialist leader Houari Boumedienne, Merbah was the only member of the opposition to have publicly urged Muslim militants to lay down their weapons.

Algiers radio said Merbah's son and brother were also killed in the attack as were their driver and a bodyguard.

APS blamed the killing on "terrorists," the official term for militants who launched their campaign of violence in early 1992 after Algeria's Army-backed leadership scrapped a general election the now-banned Islamic Salvation Front was poised to win.

At least 86 civilians, 78 security force members, and 426 suspected militants have been killed in unrest this year. US Attacked in Somalia

At least four US soldiers were wounded when Somali gunmen detonated a mine as a United States military truck drove along the main road to Mogadishu port yesterday, United Nations sources say. The attack followed a recent pattern of attacks directed at Americans, the sources say. Full details of the casualties were not immediately available.

The attack coincided with an anti-American demonstration nearby where about 3,000 Somalis shouted their support for warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed and cursed the US troops. General Aideed went into hiding soon after the June 5 killing of 24 Pakistani peacekeepers by forces loyal to him.

The UN has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to his arrest: Aideed in turn offered $1 million for the head of the UN special envoy to Somalia.

The UN closed the main airport in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Saturday, saying it feared attacks by Aideed. "We have taken the measure to close the airport to all civilian traffic because of information we have recently received indicating that the Aideed faction may have access to weapons that can threaten our aircraft," a UN statement said.

The statement did not say whether the airport's closing was a prelude to another UNOSOM II attack on Aideed positions or an attempt to arrest the warlord. The UN has often pounded Aideed strongholds after closing Mogadishu's airport. Aideed Requests Mediator

Fugitive Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed, saying the crisis between Somalis and UN peacekeepers is deepening daily, has asked for former President Jimmy Carter to mediate.

Radio Mogadishu said on Saturday that Aideed's Somali National Alliance had appealed for a neutral international committee to study the situation, and Aideed's office had heard that Mr. Carter had volunteered to act as mediator.

"We welcome such a move by [former] President Jimmy Carter while believing that the only solution is through dialogue and peaceful talks on the situation prevailing in Somalia," said the statement, monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp.

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