Algerian Officials: 10 Al Qaeda Militants Killed in Anti-Terror Sweep

Algerian soldiers killed 10 armed Islamic militants who were planning a "spectacular operation" in the name of Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, a security official said Saturday.

The army troops, backed by government-armed local militias, went after the militants in a sweep of a sector of the Boumerdes region, nearly 30 miles east of Algiers. The sweep was mounted after word got out that a major operation was planned, according to the security official. He spoke on condition of not being identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Ten armed Islamists were killed this week in the sweep and four soldiers were wounded, the official said without specifying the day. The militants had been hiding in three bunkers in Sidi Yahia in the Boumerdes region "preparing a spectacular operation with a media effect," the official said. The goal, the official said, was to raise the profile of the local branch of Al Qaeda in North Africa after the regional leader of the group was killed.

The group claimed responsibility for two double-suicide attacks in Algiers. The most recent, in December, destroyed U.N. offices, damaged a government building and killed 37 people, including 17 members of the U.N. staff.

Four people behind the December bombings were from Boumerdes, officials have said.

Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa is an affiliate of the global terror network. It grew out of a local insurgency movement, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat.

Officials learned of the plans for an attack from an acolyte of Youssef Khelifi, who died of wounds suffered in a clash last week with a militia group. The group is charged with ensuring security of foreigners working on a highway intended to run across the country, linking east and west, according to the official.

Algeria has been battling an Islamic insurgency since 1992, when the army canceled the second round of Algeria's first multiparty elections to block a likely victory by a now-banned Muslim fundamentalist party. As many as 200,000 people are estimated to have died in the violence, which had largely ebbed until militants began working under the Al Qaeda label.