Algeria captures Armed Islamic Group head

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

CAIRO Algerian forces were said to have captured a leading Islamic insurgent. Algerian sources said counter-insurgency units captured Abu Turab Al Rashid, the chief of the Armed Islamic Group, or the GIA. Al Rashid presides over what had been the largest insurgency group in Algeria.

Algeria has not issued an announcement regarding the capture of Al Rashid. His arrest was also reported in the London-based Al Hayat daily on Thursday.

The sources said Al Rashid was found in a search operation that began in October and ended at a house in a suburb of Algiers. They said security forces surrounded the home that contained Al Rashid and injured him in the shootout that led to his capture.

For the last few weeks, Al Rashid has been recovering in a Algiers hospital, the sources said. They said another leading GIA member was also captured in the operation.

In February 2002, Al Rashid replaced Antar Zubabri as GIA head. The capture of Al Rashid has been termed one of the biggest successes by Algeria's military this year in its war against Islamic insurgents.

Since 1998, the GIA has been eclipsed by the much larger Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call. The strength of the GIA was said to have dwindled to about 100 members after many insurgents moved over to the Salafists or were hired by Al Qaida elements to fight the U.S. military in Iraq.

In September 2002, Algerian security forces killed Abu Mohammed Al Yemeni, an envoy of Al Qaida. Al Yemeni had been organizing an Al Qaida network in Algeria and the safe haven for hundreds of members who had fled from Afghanistan amid the U.S. invasion of that country in 2001.

On Wednesday, Algerian security forces captured an insurgency cell near Annaba. 20 people were arrested in the sweep but insurgency leader Abou Tourab fled to the Edough mountain region. Tourab has been implicated in the killing of 12 police officers in the El Tarf Province. Security forces also captured hand-made rockets, explosives and swords and sabers in the raid.

On Thursday, three people, including a security guard on his way to work, were killed when their car was ambushed by insurgents northeast of Ain Defla Province. A Turkish soldier was killed at Oued Djemaa one week earlier.

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