Algerian security services have arrested a large number of armed Algerian Islamists in the country's northeastern Tebessa region as they were preparing to enter Libya, newspapers reported Sunday.
They said the unspecified number of militants, armed with Kalashnikovs, were fleeing from the town of Khenchela, 540 kilometres (335 miles) east of Algiers, where security forces had had them surrounded for several days.
With the protracted conflict in Libya, arms trafficking has flourished along the porous 1,000-kilometre border between the two countries.
Around 800 armed Islamists are active in Algeria, including 210 members of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), according to Badredine Messaoudi, a member of the commission charged with implementing the charter on peace and national reconciliation, quoted by the Arab-language daily Ennahar.
Another 590 Islamists are operating in southern Algeria, he added.
The charter offers an amnesty under certain conditions to Islamists who surrender to the authorities.
Since it came into force in March 2006, more than 3,200 militants have laid down their weapons, he said.