Reports: At Least 20 Islamic Militants Killed in Algeria
At least 20 Islamic militants have been killed in an offensive by the Algerian army against mountain strongholds of an extremist group in Algeria's western Chlef region, newspapers reported Sunday.
The attack on the strongholds, in Mounts Bourokba and Menkoura, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Algiers, took place on Friday and Saturday, the reports said.
It was launched in response to an ambush of a military convoy in Chlef a week ago by members of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), in which at least 13 government soldiers were killed.
The convoy had been on its way to nearby K'dadra to assist villagers who had earlier been attacked by unidentified armed men, in what is believed to have been a decoy to lure the army into the ambush.
The daily Tribune newspaper put the number of dead Islamic militants at between 20 and 30, and said an aircraft had been used to bomb GIA positions.
The latest deaths bring to over 70 the number of people killed in violence linked to Islamic extremists since the beginning of June, according to an AFP tally complied from official and press reports.
Since the start of the year, around 1,200 people have died in such attacks, according to the AFP count.
Insurgency broke out early 1992, when the army prevented the now-outlawed fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) from taking power by calling off the second round of general elections it was poised to win.
Violence since then has claimed more than 100,000 mainly civilian lives.
The GIA, active to the west and south of Algiers, and another movement, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), based in the northeast and the Kabylie highlands, rejected an amnesty accepted by other Islamic fighters between July 1999 and January last year.
Their attacks, however, slowed in May, a month marked by ethnic Berber riots in the northeastern Kabylie region.
The rioting has claimed 56 lives and left almost 2,300 injured, according to an official toll, while opposition parties and the private press say that between 80 and 100 people have died and more than 3,000 have been injured -- ALGIERS (AFP)
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