Blaming The Foreigners

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ALGIERS: Algerian President Liamine Zeroual finally addressed a wave of violence that has left an estimated 200 people dead in the last two weeks by putting the blame on foreign agitators. In a nationally televised speech that came only hours after dozens of people were killed in villages south of the capital, Zeroual said that the recent violence was the work of gangs supported by outside powers for "cowardly terrorism." Muslim fundamentalists are suspected of slitting the throats of at least 46 people in Friday's attacks, topping off a week of in which more than 100 others were killed by car bomb explosions. The continued carnage overshadows the holy month of Ramadan, and follows warnings from Islamic fundamentalists opposed to Zeroual's military regime that bloodshed would occur. It also mars the government's efforts to convey an image of normalcy five years into an uprising that has claimed over 60,000 lives. Richard Bulliet, director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, says that the insurgents use violence to undermine the regime's credibility: "It's very important for Algeria to maintain the impression of stability in order to roll over debts and keep creditors happy." Attacks by outlawed Muslim guerrillas could give Zeroual a handy excuse to cancel the general elections that are due in May.