Islamic Militants Reportedly Massacre 26 in Western Algeria

Islamic insurgents reportedly killed 26 people early Friday, including women and children, in a rural hamlet in western Algeria, the official APS news agency reported.

The agency, citing security sources, said the victims were members of three families in Bokaat Laakakcha in the region of Chlef, 155 miles west of the capital, Algiers.

The attack was carried out by a "terrorist group," APS said, language used to refer to Islamic extremists who have been locked in a bloody 10-year battle with security forces.

No further details on the incident were immediately available. It was not known how many of the victims were children.

The Chlef killings were the latest in what has proved a bloody summer for Algeria. A peace plan has failed to halt the violence in which approximately 120,000 people -- civilians, soldiers and insurgents -- have been killed over the past decade.

A marketplace bombing on July 5 in Larbaa, just south of Algiers, left 35 people dead. About 170 people were killed in July alone, according to an unofficial count by the press. Security forces launched new offensives and ambushes in August, killing about 70 extremists, press reports said.

The violence was sparked by an army decision to cancel legislative elections in January 1992 that a now-banned Muslim fundamentalist group was poised to win.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika offered an amnesty to militants willing to surrender their weapons by early 2000 in an effort to bring peace. While thousands accepted the amnesty, the radical Armed Islamic Group, blamed for most killings, and the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, which mainly goes after targets that represent the state -- soldiers and government officials -- continue to wage the insurgency.