CAIRO Ñ An Islamic offensive against Algeria's military has resulted
in the death of at least 56 people.
Algerian sources said the soldiers and civilians were killed in two
separate attacks in the eastern part of the country. They
said insurgents from the Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call attacked
infantry units in the governorate of Batna on late Saturday.
The sources said 43 soldiers were killed in the Salafist attack in
Batna, a mountainous region located 400 kilometers southeast of the capital
Algiers. The soldiers were described as an infantry unit from a civil
defense force, Middle East Newsline reported.
The sources said Islamic insurgents detonated bombs placed along a road
used by the military. There were no reports of Salafist casualties.
The second Islamic attack took place against civilians in Zabana, about
45 kilometers south of Algiers. The official Algerian news agency reported
that the Armed Islamic Group killed 13 people from two families.
The Islamic attacks took place one day after a leading insurgent was
killed by Algerian security forces. Ghamid Amin was said to have been a
leading planner in a series of attacks by Islamic groups around Algeria
during the summer of 2002.
About 1,100 people have been killed in the insurgency war in each of the
last two years. More than 100,000 people have been killed since the war
began in 1992.
The Salafist offensive has been termed as the bloodiest since the
Islamic insurgency war began in Algeria in 1992. Algerian sources said the
Salafists have been in close contact with Al Qaida over the past month in an
effort to launch major attacks against both Western and Algerian targets.
Estimates of Salafist strength vary greatly. Western intelligence
sources place the number of insurgents, headed by Hassan Khatab, at 4,500.
But Algerian officials said the group contains no more than 500 people.
Algeria has asked the United States for a range of military equipment to
help detect and target insurgents. The United States has approved several
non-lethal systems but has not sent them to the North African state.