ALGIERS, (Reuters) – The Algerian army, stepping up a counter-offensive after attacks by al Qaeda’s north Africa wing, has killed around 16 of the group’s fighters in the past three days, newspapers reported on Saturday.
At least 13 members of the al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb were killed near borders with Tunisia in Tebessa province, some 634 km (396 miles) east of the capital Algiers, independent dailies Liberte and El Khabar said.
The army was acting on information provided by a captured rebel, the papers cited security sources as saying.
In a separate operation, the military killed three members of the same group near El Affroun town in Blida province, about 70 km (43 miles) south of Algiers, El Watan newspaper said. The authorities have yet to comment on the offensives.
Maghreb Al Qaeda said last month it was planning a violent campaign against “infidels” and government forces in the Maghreb region and urged Muslims to stay away from possible targets, according to a statement posted on the Internet.
The group, known previously as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), has switched tactics from hit and run raids in rural areas to high-profile urban bombings. Triple suicide attacks killed 33 people in Algiers in April.
Algeria’s army and security forces killed 47 militants last month, taking the total number of people killed this year in clashes between Islamist rebels and government forces to 265, according to a Reuters count based on newspaper reports.
Up to 200,000 people have been killed in Algeria since 1992 after military-backed authorities scrapped parliamentary elections that an slamist party was poised to win.
The violence has subsided in recent years but some bloodshed continues, mainly in Kabylie and nearby areas.