The Killing Season

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ALGIERS: Bloodied by an Islamic rebellion against the secular government of Algeria, holidays there are a time to kill. More than 1,000 people have died in here since the Dec. 30 start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. And even as the Algerian government adamantly nixed a U.S. call for an international inquiry, reports surfaced Wednesday that 27 more people had been killed.

"Every Ramadan, the Islamists step up not only the pace but the ferocity of their killings," says TIME State Department correspondent Dean Fischer says, adding that this year has been even more bloodthirsty than usual. Victims have been burned alive, hacked to death with machetes, had their throats slit or been mutilated.

Fischer says that the international inquiry wasn't meant to implicate the government: "Its purpose would be to establish the facts of the massacres, some specific culpability--things which are notably absent in this case." Yet Algerian officials, who maintain the violence is only "residual" even as public squares teem with villagers seeking refuge, continue to refuse any outside interference. For many Algerians it will be a long, terrifying January.