Algieran soldiers on a search operation have killed seven armed Islamist extremists in the province of Bouira, east of the capital Algiers.

A statement by the Defense Ministry said the soldiers killed the seven on Wednesday in Lakhdaria, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Algiers. They also recovered a cache of arms, including automatic pistols, rifles and loaded chargers, as well as eight cell phones.

The statement suggested some of the seven were early members of the Islamist insurgency that began wracking the North African nation in the 1990s.

The ministry said two men, identified as M. Ammar and R. Ali, had joined the armed insurgency in 1993 and 2001 respectively.

The insurgency — which left an estimated 200,000 dead — eventually transformed into the North African affiliate of al-Qaida.