Algerian troops and militias killed at least four armed Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas in search-and-destroy operations in the north of the country, press reports said Saturday.
Three guerrillas were killed at Djebel Tafrane near Tiaret, 340 kilometers (210 miles) west of Algiers, on Thursday, according to reports confirmed by the security forces, while civilian militiamen killed another at Legata 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of the capital.
The same day, the army carried out a major search operation in the Sidi Ali Bounab forest of the northeastern Kabylie region, near Tizi Ouzou. Security forces said five bunkers where bombs were hidden were destroyed and a number of other weapons, some homemade, were seized.
Fifteen Muslim extremist fighters were killed in the forest sweep, the El Watan and Liberte dailies reported, but the figure was not confirmed by the authorities, who rarely give any details of security operations.
El Watan said helicopters pounded the area before "special units" of the army moved in.
The daily Le Matin said the leadership of Hassan Hattab's fundamentalist Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, one of the most brutal of the radical movements, was believed to be trapped in the Tizi Ouzou region.
Also on Thursday, a group of eight people raided Berka Ezerga near the city of Annaba, 600 kilometers east of Algiers, and killed a 16-year-old boy, slitting his throat. Liberte reported that one of the attackers was a woman wearing military uniform, while the others wore Afghan guerrilla garb.
On the basis of the latest reports, nearly 30 people have been killed in the Algerian unrest since the beginning of January. At least 330 people were killed during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan from late November to December.
More than 100,000 people have died in Algeria since Islamic militants took up arms in 1992 after the army called off the second round of elections that the Islamic Salvation Front was poised to win -- ALGIERS (AFP)
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