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A survivor's tale of agony

The hollow-eyed survivors of recent terrorist massacres in Algeria recount their experiences with stunned dispassion, as if narrating a film.

Take, for example, Nasir Amrouche, who relives an evening of agony as he makes his way during the daylight in the cemetery among rows and rows of mounds that cover the dead of Sidi-Rais and Bentalha. He and his wife took flight and survived that miserable night. But they were forced to leave their son Ahmed, 4, with his grandfather.

After hiding under a bush all night long with his 3-year-old _ who kept hissing, "Daddy, please don't breathe, they'll hear you!" _ Amrouche raced to his father's home, only to find him and his son dead on the doorstep. His father had been shot; Ahmed's throat had been slit. The boy's body lay in his grandfather's arms.

Amrouche inexplicably decided to demonstrate the crime. He grabbed his 3-year-old son roughly, turned his head and ran the edge of his hand across the side of his neck. Terror spread across the tot's face for a moment.

Then Amrouche spoke, his voice thick with regret: "I don't know why we divided our children like that. It happened so quickly. I don't know why."

The emotion grew so thick that the interpreter translating his remarks could not go on.