/ 2 March 2009

Algerian army kills seven in raid on militant camp

The Algerian army killed seven Islamist militants during a raid on a secret base in mountains near the Algerian capital, a security official and local media said on Monday.

The official said the army was guided to the militant camp by members of a terrorist support network arrested a week earlier in Blida, about 80km south of Algiers, the capital.

The independent daily Liberte and several other newspapers also reported the raid, which occurred in the Blida area late on Friday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of Algerian security regulations, said about a dozen automatic rifles were seized during the operation.

Authorities have not commented on the raid or said whether there were government casualties.

There have been increased security efforts in the North African country since August, when al-Qaeda’s local offshoot claimed responsibility for a series of suicide bombings that left more than 100 people dead.

Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni announced this weekend that Algerian security forces had killed 120 Islamist militants over the past six months and arrested 322.

The local militant group, known as al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, joined Osama bin Laden’s terror network in 2006. The group is a leftover from a near-civil war between Algeria’s secular-leaning government forces and Islamists, which killed up to 200 000 people in the 1990s.

The militants recently issued a statement claiming they had killed or wounded 47 people during nine attacks in February.

Zerhouni said security efforts will be further stepped up ahead of Algerian presidential elections due on April 9. — Sapa-AP