Algeria reports killing of top Salafist leadership

Monday, June 21, 2004

Algeria said its security forces have killed the top leadership of the Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call.

Algerian officials said military units killed Salafist commander Nabil Sahrawi and his lieutenants. Officials said the Salafist leadership was killed in a clash with the military in the Kabylie region east of Algiers.

An Algerian military statement said on Sunday that Sahrawi and at least three of his leading aides were killed in the battle, Middle East Newsline reported. The statement, announced on state radio, identified one of the lieutenants as Abi Abdul Aziz. Known as "the paratrooper," Abdul Aziz had been regarded as the next leader of the Salafists.

The statement described Sahrawi, 38, as one of North Africa's most-wanted terrorist leaders. The military said the Salafist Brigade was linked to Al Qaida.

"Units of the [Algerian] People's National Army, engaged in a huge anti-terrorist operation, have killed a number of criminals, including Nabil Sahrawi, alias Mustapha Abu Ibrahim, chief of the terrorist group known as the Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call, as well as his main aides," the military statement said.

In a statement read on state radio and television, the military said the attack on the Salafist leadership took place near the mountain village of El Kseur in eastern Kabylie about 260 kilometers east of Algiers. The military had been conducting a search-and-destroy operation in the area since early June.

The military said the operation has "completely neutralized" the Salafist leadership. The statement said Algerian forces also seized ammunition, documents and weapons.

In 2003, Sahrawi succeeded Hassan Hattab as leader of the Salafist Brigade. Sahrawi was said to have increased Salafist cooperation with Al Qaida.

Islamic sources familiar with the Salafists said Sahrawi was expected to be succeeded by Abdul Hamid Saadawi, known as Abu Haithem. The sources said the strength of the Salafist Brigade has dropped to about 500 over the last year.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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