Muslim guerrillas have beheaded five building workers in Algeria, an Algerian newspaper reported Saturday, as the prime minister said that "terrorism" was much reduced but civilians were still at risk.
Ahmed Ouyahia warned that the more the "terrorists" were thwarted from attacking secure areas, "the more their barbarous acts would focus on civilian populations surprised in isolation or struck massively by explosions."El Watan independent newspaper reported that the Algerian rebels beheaded the five building workers as they slept in a village in northern Algeria on New Year's eve.
It was a second night of horror for Douaouda village, 40 miles west of the capital Algiers, within two months.
In November the Liberte newspaper said more than 20 rebels attacked Douaouda, dragged 10 women and three children into the room of a house and slit their throats, one by one.
More than 80 civilians were slaughtered in December during attacks, mostly on small villages overnight, blamed by the authorities on Muslim fundamentalists. Scores more were killed or wounded in the dying weeks of 1996.
In a speech to Algeria's unelected quasi-parliament, the prime minister said "terrorism is really reduced to a residual level."
Algeria uses the term "terrorism" for actions by the armed fundamentalists who have been fighting security forces since early in 1992. About 60,000 people, including many civilians and more than 100 foreigners, have died in the violence.
Ouyahia added: "Equally, after having benefited from logistic and political complicity abroad . . . terrorism in Algeria today finds itself also having significantly lost external support."
Algerian fundamentalists are suspected by the French authorities of carrying out bomb attacks in 1995 and 1996.