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Algeria kills 40 militants believed linked to Al Qaida

Monday, January 20, 2003

CAIRO Algeria's military has continued its offensive, killing up to 40 suspected Islamic insurgents over the last week.

Algerian sources said the insurgents included foreign nationals believed linked to Al Qaida. The sources said the foreigners came from such countries as Afghanistan and Pakistan. They said 18 suspected insurgents were captured in the Batna region over the weekend.

[On late Sunday, Algerian security forces helped foil a hijacking attempt of an Air Algeria flight from Paris to Algiers. The official Algerian Press Service reported that three suspects, who did not carry weapons, were overpowered and arrested.]

The military offensive came in wake of an attack by the Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call. The Salafist ambush on Jan. 4 in Batna resulted in the death of 43 commandos.

The military offensive has included the use of attack helicopters, mortars and armored vehicles. Algerian newspapers said the operation has been conducted in several provinces in eastern Algeria.

Algerian officials have accused Al Qaida of helping the Salafist and the Armed Islamic Group in recent attacks on the military. They said Al Qaida was responding to the killing of a regional operation chief by Algerian forces in September.

Islamic insurgents have also continued their attacks on the military and security forces. Algerian newspapers said five security officers and soldiers were wounded in clashes in the Tebsa province over the weekend.

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