Algeria army kills top member of Qaeda branch: reports
Rabah Makhfi, known as Sheikh Nacer and considered AQMI leader Abdelmalek Droukdel's right hand man, was among three Islamists killed by the Algerian army
The Algerian army has killed three Islamists in the restive Kabylie region, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's top military commander, several Algerian newspapers reported on Monday.
Rabah Makhfi, 45, also known as Sheikh Nacer and considered AQMI leader Abdelmalek Droukdel's right hand man, was among the three killed in Bejaia, 250 kilometres (155 miles) east of Algiers, on Friday, Arabic-language daily Ennahar reported.
His death has not been officially confirmed.
Makhfi joined Algeria's armed Islamists at the start of the civil war that broke out in the early 1990s, according to the same source.
A breakaway group of militant Islamists continued its operations after the conflict formally ended, and subscribed to Al-Qaeda's ideology in 2007 as the terror network's north African franchise led by Droukdel.
After a string of high-profile attacks, the army managed to severely curtail AQIM's operations, but it remains active in Kabylie, its heartland in eastern Algeria.
The group has been boosted by the turmoil in neighbouring Mali that followed a coup there in March, with hardline Islamists occupying the country's northern region.