Algerian army kills 12 Islamists: Ministry

AFP , Monday 12 May 2014

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika delivers a speech during a swearing-in ceremony in Algiers April 28, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

A dozen Islamists have been killed over the past week by the Algerian army in the southern Tamanrasset province near the border with strife-torn Mali, the defence ministry announced Monday.

Soldiers found the bodies of two Islamist fighters on Monday at Tin Zaouatine in Algeria's far south, after a gun battle with the army which has been hunting militants in the area since May 5.

Their deaths bring to 12 the number of Islamists killed in the operation.

The government announced last week that the military had killed 10 Islamist fighters in clashes west of Tin Zaouatine, saying they were originally from Mali, Tunisia and Libya.

The military operation allowed the army to foil "a dangerous attempt to cross the border by a heavily armed terrorist group," the defence ministry said.

A large quantity of weapons was recovered, including 12 Kalashnikov-type assault rifles, an RPG-7 rocket launcher, four anti-tank mines and ammunition.

Earlier this month, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for an April ambush in the restive Kabylie region in northeastern Algeria that killed 11 soldiers.

The attack was the deadliest on the military in years and came two days after ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was re-elected for a fourth term.

The 77-year-old, who had voted from a wheelchair, is seen by many as the leader who helped restore stability after the devastating civil war of the 1990s, when Islamist-linked violence rocked Algeria.

But despite a decline in deadly unrest under Bouteflika, jihadists still operate in the mountainous Kabylie region, and since the 2011 uprisings toppled dictators across the region, Algeria has been increasingly vulnerable to attacks from Mali and Libya, with whom it shares vast desert borders.

The deadly hostage-taking by Islamist militants at the In Amenas desert gas plant last year, in which some 40 hostages were killed, prompted the army to beef up its presence in Tamanrasset as part of efforts to secure Algeria's porous frontiers.

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