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Friday, November 23, 2007

AQIM acknowledges death of Yahya Abu al-Haitham

ALGIERS, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's north African wing heaped praise on one of its senior members killed last week by Algerian security forces and said on Friday his death would not weaken the organisation.

Yahya Abu al-Haitham died in a clash with Algerian gendarmes between the towns of Zazqa and Tizi Ouzou, 120 km (75 miles) east of Algiers, according to a statement from the group posted on an Islamist Web site.

Newspapers said Yahya was killed on Nov. 16 while trying to penetrate a military roadblock. The group's confirmation of his death was a departure from its usual practice.

"We are happy to announce a great event: the glorious death of our commander Yahya Abu Haitham, known in Mujahideen cicles as Abu Yahya," said the statement, signed by leaders of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

It said Abu Yahya had spent 14 years in the organisation and held several responsibilities, most recently as head of its liaison committee.

Maghreb al Qaeda, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, said it was behind two suicide bombings that killed 57 people in September. One was a failed attempt to assassinate President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Since then the government has stepped up efforts to root out its fighters, many of whom are hiding in dense forests in the mountainous region of Kabylie east of Algiers.

Algerian newspapers reported in recent weeks that security forces had weakened the organisation by killing or capturing several senior members.

The Rest @ Reuters Africa

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