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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Al Qaeda Meeting in Southern Algeria Interrupted

Sun 3 Feb 2008, 10:39 GMT

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian troops killed five al Qaeda fighters, including the organisation's chief in Mali, during a hunt for men who shot at army helicopters in Algeria's desert south, the top-selling daily El Khabar said on Sunday.

The five were killed on Friday in the Rhourd Ennous area 700 km (440 miles) south of Algiers, El Khabar, which has good security sources, quoted a military source as saying. A sixth guerrilla was arrested in the operation, the newspaper said.

The hunt, led by a major-general, began when a group of armed men in all-terrain vehicles opened fire at army reconnaissance helicopters flying over the desert in the Rhourd Ennous region on January 29 and then fled.

The hunt was still in progress, the paper said. It quoted hospital sources as saying the dead men included people of "African nationalities."

"It is probable that they are from Chad, Mali, Niger and Mauritania," one of the sources was quoted as saying. An army spokesman could not immediately be reached.

The newspaper said the men had links to an al Qaeda group operated by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian veteran of the Afghan war against Soviet occupation who is believed to be hiding in the border areas between Algeria, Mali and Niger.

Algeria's main Islamist militant group opusually erates in remote mountains east of Algiers and the southern desert, and is involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.

El Khabar and Echorouk newspapers both reported that security forces had arrested dozens of suspected smugglers in Algeria's southern desert in the past few weeks to probe links between smuggling and what it called terrorist activities.

The Rest @ Reuters Africa

2 comments:

Adrian said...

Wasn't Mokhtar Belmokhtar killed three years ago by Tuareg rebels?

Anonymous said...

We thought so, it is an intersting report....

-Shirmon