Up to 12 Algerian soldiers have been killed in an ambush by armed Islamic fundamentalists in the north of the country, in the latest bloody attack on the security forces here in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, press reports said Thursday.
Daily Le Matin said 12 soldiers had been killed in the attack Wednesday at Ksar El-Boukhari, in the Medea region, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Algiers.
It said six of the attackers were killed as the soldiers fought back.
However, El-Acil said seven people were killed and several soldiers injured.
At least 160 people have been killed in Algeria since Ramadan started on November 27.
In separate attacks carried by papers Thursday, a civilian guard was killed Tuesday in Bouchetata, near Skikda, 500 kilometers (300 miles) east of Algeria.
Press reports said four armed Islamic fundamentalists were killed Monday by government security forces in operations near Jijel, 300 kilometers (180 miles) east of Algiers and Chlef, 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of the capital.
Hardline Islamic groups have stepped up their attacks on the security forces since Ramadan began.
More than 40 police, troops and civilian guards were killed between last Sunday and Wednesday, according to a tally from press reports.
Most of the attacks appear to have been carried out by the hardline Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which has rejected President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's moves towards national reconciliation.
Helicopter gunships have been pounding GSPC hideouts.
Insurgency by fundamentalist groups has claimed at least 100,000 lives since they took up arms in 1992 after the army called off the second round of elections the Islamic Salvation Front was poised to win.
Bouteflika in July 1999 offered a six-month amnesty on specific conditions to armed groups, which led hundreds of fighters to turn themselves in.
He has ordered the security forces to crack down mercilessly on those who failed to take up the offer -- ALGIERS (AFP)
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