'Those Who Deserve to Die'

A leader of Algeria's rebel Armed Islamic Group (GIA) says the massacres carried out by his men were justified and that all enemies of Islam, from the youngest to the oldest, should have their throats cut.

"It is clear that there are no indiscriminate killings. Our fighters only kill those who deserve to die," said Abou Al Moundhir, one of the GIA's chiefs.

Algerian security services say his real name is Mahofoud Assouli, born in 1965. They have placed a million-dinar ($15,800) bounty on his head.

His declarations were made in an interview with the underground Al Djamaa newspaper, which claims to be the "official voice of the GIA in the West" and is circulated throughout Europe.

The justification of the killings, carried in a 14-page article, offers a chilling explanation of the GIA's unique logic.

"We say to those who accuse us of indiscriminate killing that we will fight those traitors who have gone over to the taghout [the Algerian authorities]," Moundhir said.

"We do no more than carry out the wishes of God and the prophet."

He added: "When you hear about killings and throat-slittings in a village or town, you should know it's a matter of the death of government partisans, or else it's the application of GIA communiqués ordering [us] to do good and combat evil."

He went on to say that the killing of innocent women and children in bomb blasts was justified if they were in the same area as the enemy.

If the innocent are among the dead, they will be accepted as "martyrs," he said.

In order to combat evil, the GIA fighters' duty is also to eliminate all "those who do not pray, who drink alcohol, take drugs, homosexuals and immodest or debauched women."

Moundhir says the GIA divides the Algerian population into three categories: first are those who join the "holy war," secondly those who fight against Islam by "force, talk or with the pen."

The third category is those who say they support Islam but say they are also in favor of democracy and elections, whom Moundhir said are "impostors and wrong-doers."

"Their fate is death."

He said those in Algeria who did not help or fight against the GIA should go into exile.

He issued a dire warning against people who once supported the GIA, but had changed over to the government side out of fear: "They have become the enemies of our fighters, from the youngest of their children to the oldest of their elderly."

The worst massacres in Algeria have been carried out in areas south of the capital and in the southwest of the country. There was strong support for the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in these areas in the early 1990s, before the government canceled the results of elections which the FIS was poised to win.

Many villages there have now set up self-defense forces encouraged by the government in an attempt to protect the population from the GIA and other extremist Islamic groups.

Moundhir also confirmed there had been executions within the GIA ranks of those who had been suspected of being too influenced by Islamic nationalism and of wanting to change the direction of the movement.

These included the former chief of the GIA in the West, Abdel Wahab Ouahabi, whom Moundhir says was killed in September 1996 with some of his supporters.