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Al Qaida-backed group delivers another blow to Algerian military

Friday, January 10, 2003

CAIRO Algeria's military has been rocked by new Islamic militants' attacks that have killed up to 10 soldiers.

The attacks were attributed to the two leading insurgency movements in the North African state and aided by Al Qaida. On Jan. 3, Islamic insurgents killed 39 Algerian commandos in the eastern part of the country.

Algerian sources said the latest attacks were reported on late Tuesday in the region of Tizi Ouzou region about 100 kilometers east of Algiers, Middle East Newsline reported. The sources said an infantry patrol was attacked when two roadside bombs were detonated by Islamic insurgents.

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Algerian newspapers said the Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call was responsible for the attack. The brigade used a similar method in the ambush of an elite unit last weekend in the Aures mountains of the Batna governorate.

In another attack, two soldiers were killed on Tuesday in the Batna region about 250 kilometers east of Algiers. The Armed Islamic Group was said to have been responsible.

Algeria has launched a new offensive against the Salafists in wake of last weekend's attack on an elite military unit. Algerian newspapers said the military operation has been overseen by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Lamari.

Algerian sources and newspapers said the heavy military casualties in the latest Islamic attacks were the result of help provided by Al Qaida. They said Al Qaida wants to avenge the military killing Imad Abdul Wahid Ahmed Alwan on Sept. 12, identified as head of Al Qaida's operations in North Africa.

The military has also bolstered its forces in the Batna region. Algerian commandos, supported by helicopters and tanks, have been searching for Islamic insurgents in the mountainous areas in wake of last weekend's battles, described as the bloodiest since the start of the 1992 insurgency war.

Algerian sources said President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika has issued another appeal to the United States for night-vision systems to allow Algerian troops to detect and target insurgents at any time. The sources said Washington has approved the sale of such equipment, but it has not arrived.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration has approved the sale of night-vision goggles, but has turned down Algerian requests for lethal equipment. Boucher said the goggles have not been delivered to the Algerian military.

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