ISLAMIC REBELS HIT IN ALGERIA, MEDIA REPORT
TUNIS — The most violent militant Islamic group in Algeria has been practically eliminated in a massive, two-week operation by government troops, newspapers reported Saturday in Algiers.
Some 2,800 guerrillas were killed, according to Liberte newspaper. Algeria's ambassador to the United Nations, Hadj Osmane Bencherif, told reporters the offensive was having ''spectacular successes.''
Algeria's official news agency, APS, quoted another newspaper, L'Authentique, as saying the most violent group, Armed Islamic Group is ''decapitated.'' Liberte said troops also captured 200 rebels, who are trying to overthrow the government.
Nonetheless, a leader of the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), which has an armed wing called the Islamic Salvation Army, said Saturday in Sudan that the government must accept opposition proposals to end three years of civil strife or face continued bloodshed.
Most of Algeria's opposition groups agreed to a peace plan in Rome in January. The accord offered conditional negotiations with Algiers to lead to a transitional government to take the country to elections. ''We will not accept any compromise on our religion,'' said Anwar Haddam, a FIS leader.
Algeria's conflict, during which some 40,000 people, including 80 foreigners, have been killed, started after the Army-backed authorities canceled a general election in January 1992. FIS, which had been poised to win the election, was subsequently outlawed.
Algeria rejected the opposition's Rome pact but did offer to talk to main legal opposition parties concerning a presidential poll to be held later this year.
On Saturday, one of the main secular opposition parties, the Socialist Forces Front, said it was willing to hold such talks, marking a significant change in policy. Two other parties among the eight that signed the pact have already agreed to talks -- the former sole ruling party, the National Liberation Front; and the legal Islamic fundamentalist movement, Nahda.