Algeria destroys underground Salafist hideouts

Monday, April 21, 2003

CAIRO Algeria continues to uncover insurgency hideouts near the capital of the North African country.

The hideouts were discovered during a combined task force operation by special operations forces and attack helicopters near Algiers last week. The Algerian offensive was said to have been launched against the Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call.

Algerian security sources said that so far 10 underground lairs have been discovered in the Boumedras province. They said the hideouts contained weapons and explosives.

All of the hideouts were destroyed by Algeria's military, the sources said. They said 10 suspected Salafist insurgents were killed and another 20 were captured in several provinces during the week-long operation.

On Monday, Algerian troops killed five Islamic insurgents in a clash west of the capital. One soldier was killed during the battle in Belaas in the province of Einal-Dafla.

In southern Algeria, more than 1,000 army troops, police and border guards continued a search for 31 Western nationals reported missing in the Sahara Desert. The nationals include 18 Germans as well as Austrian, Dutch, Swedish and Swiss citizens. The Westerners moved through Algeria from Tunisia in six separate groups.

The Algerian search and rescue force includes helicopters and reconnaissance aircraft. The aircraft are said to be equipped with infrared systems.

Germany has also helped Algeria in the search. A force of German commandos from the GSG9 unit counterterrorist unit has joined the operation. So far, at least 11 of the tourists have been found.

In an unrelated development, Algeria has resumed its search for advanced combat systems from the former Soviet Union. Algerian Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammed Lamari held talks in Minsk last week with Belarus military and defense leaders.

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