Ambush Kills 7 Soldiers in Algeria

Friday, November 10, 2006

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ALGIERS, Algeria — Seven members of Algeria's security forces were killed in an ambush during a cleanup operation in a forest used as a hideout by Islamic extremists, and 13 others were injured, four of them seriously, security officials said Friday.

Reinforcements were immediately sent into the Begasse forest, in the Bouira region, some 70 miles east of the capital, where an armed band attacked security forces Thursday as they cleared a blockade made of dead branches, the officials said. The insurgents, identified as the El Farouk arm of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, were encircled, the officials said.

The security officials were not authorized to speak publicly of the attack and asked not to be identified. Authorities rarely make public information about attacks and deaths of soldiers in the long-standing battle against Islamic insurgents.

The Salafist Group for Call and Combat, or GSPC, which has aligned itself with al-Qaida, is the only remaining insurgency group in Algeria capable of dealing death blows.

Eight troops were killed a week ago in an ambush in Algeria's western region of Ain Defla, attacked by 15 militants as they investigated a report of an incursion.

Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni tried at the start of the month to minimize the ranks of insurgents, saying that an 750 to 800 Islamic insurgents have been put out of action _ captured, killed or turned themselves in _ since September 2005, when the nation voted in a referendum for a national reconciliation pact which called for an amnesty. The GSCP refused.

An estimated 150,000 people _ Islamists, civilians and military _ have been killed since the start of the insurgency, triggered when the army canceled 1992 legislative elections that a Muslim fundamentalist party was poised to win.

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