The deputy chief of al Qaeda's North Africa arm, believed to be the group's operational leader, died along with two other activists in a gun battle with Algerian forces, local newspapers reported on Tuesday.
Hareg Zoheir, also known as Sofiane Abu Fasila, was said to be the second-in-command of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and suspected of being behind planning most of the suicide bombings in Algeria in the recent months. He was shot dead on Sunday at a check point in the eastern region of Tzizi Ouzou, the country's leading dailies reported.
"Sofiane is a big, big fish. In a way, he was the real boss of the organization in Algeria," Eshorouk's editor and security specialist Anis Rahmani told Reuters, adding that " he was a man of action not a man of religion."
Two other fighters were also killed alongside him during a clash with government forces at the check point, El Watan and Eshorouk dailies added.