The North African affiliate of al-Qaida says one of its leading figures has been killed in an ambush by Algerian soldiers.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, says that Abu al-Hassan Rachid al-Bulaydi, head of the Sharia Committee, was killed on Friday "as a result of an insidious ambush by the apostates," according to a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The statement said he was killed in the Tizi Ouzou region east of Algiers.

The Algerian Defense Ministry said two "dangerous terrorists" had been killed Friday in another part of Tizi Ouzou, and it wasn't clear whether al-Bulaydi was one of the two.

AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel, is thought to be holed up in the mountainous Tizi Ouzou region. AQIM is blamed for sporadic attacks on soldiers.