Magazine article Newsweek

'Triangle of Death': A Futile Attempt to Stop Algeria's Terror

Magazine article Newsweek

'Triangle of Death': A Futile Attempt to Stop Algeria's Terror

Article excerpt

Under the watch of rifle-toting escorts, journalists visiting Algeria last week were allowed to travel into an area south of the capital known as the "Triangle of Death." In the village of Sidi Harried, fresh graves dot two cemeteries. Blood stains the wall outside the home of Ouelde-Ben Achour Zerrouk, and the grain his mother was preparing for dinner on Jan. 11 still sits in a steel basin in the kitchen. That night, more than 100 terrorists raided his neighborhood, killing 151 civilians in 30 minutes. Zerrouk lost 22 relatives. "I don't care about the terror," he said. "We're dead already."

If this is the official tour, it is difficult to imagine what the government doesn't want visitors to see. After months of stonewalling, it agreed to allow in the journalists and nine delegates from the European Union Parliament. Sequestered to a government seaside estate during most of their five days there, the delegates were banned from visiting massacre sites at all. They talked to opposition members, human-rights workers and editors--but usually only those the government chose. "We were hoping the delegation would ask for an international in-vestigation of the massacres," said Abderrahim Sabir of Amnesty International. "It looks more like the Algerian authorities set an agenda and the delegation followed it."

The trip is perhaps the best symbol yet of the outside world's impotence in Algeria. The massacres began in 1992, the year after the Army suspended democratic elections that Islamic candidates seemed poised to win. That prompted some Islamists to take up arms, beginning a cycle of violence that has cost 75,000 lives--1,200 in the past six weeks. The European delegates failed to question the government about charges that it bears some responsibility for the killings. Instead, they promised to consider moves that would actually bolster the military regime: lifting an arms embargo and investigating charges that European countries harbor fundamentalists who arm rebels inside Algeria. …

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