ALGIERS, Algeria – Algerian security forces identified a radical Islamic militant slain over the weekend as the No. 2 leader and explosives expert of Al Qaeda's North Africa affiliate, reports said.
Sofiane el-Fassila, alias Hareg Zoheir, was an alleged mastermind of several recent suicide bombing attacks in Algeria that were claimed by an insurgent group now calling itself Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, newspaper reports said Tuesday, citing security officials.
El-Fassila and two suspected accomplices were shot dead Saturday near a roadblock put up by security forces in the town of Boghni in the restive Kabylie region east of Algiers, the daily Liberte reported.
Security forces have been conducting sweeps in the region and searching for el-Fassila, who had been wanted in connection with April 11 homicide bombings targeting the prime minister's office and a police station in an Algiers suburb. Thirty people died in those attacks.
El-Fassila, who was reportedly born in 1975, was said to have helped redirect the former Salafist insurgent group known as the GSPC toward use of homicide bombings -- rarely used in the longtime rebellion by Islamic militants in the North African country.
Algeria has been working to end sporadic violence linked to the insurgency that broke out in 1992 after the army canceled legislative elections that an Islamic party was set to win. As many as 200,000 have died in the resulting violence, which peaked in the mid-1990s.