DUBAI (Reuters) – Al Qaeda’s wing in north Africa says it has killed 20 Algerian soldiers and wounded 30 in clashes in its eastern stronghold, where the army has launched a campaign against the rebels.
In an Internet statement posted on Saturday, the group denied a newspaper report that 25 of its fighters had been killed and played down reports its leader had been surrounded.
Liberte and El Watan reported last month that Abdelmalek Droudkel, also known as Abu Mus’ab Abd el-Wadoud may be among rebels that 9,000-10,000 troops had besieged in a mountainous area between the two eastern provinces of Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia.
“After the apostates trumpeted their major campaign to comb the Bejaia area, for which they gathered more than 10,000 troops … and claimed to surround the emir of the organization, and the enemy al-Shorouk newspaper … told lies about the killing of 25 mujahideen … we wish to present a summary of the utter failure of the apostates…” the group said.
“Most casualties were recorded among the apostates during the explosion of dozens of bombs that the mujahideen received them with… and their limbs went flying, two of their vehicles were charred and many of them fled like frightened rats…”
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for several major attacks including two suicide bombings that targeted U.N. offices and a court building in December 2007, killing 41 people including 17 United Nations staff.
Algeria is emerging from over a decade of conflict that began when the military-backed government scrapped legislative polls in 1992 that a radical Islamic party was poised to win.
The bloodshed has subsided in recent years and last year the government freed more than 2,000 former Islamist guerrillas under an amnesty designed to put an end to the conflict.
“We say to the apostates: continue your lies to the people about the killing of dozens of mujahideen, and cover up your daily defeats at the hands of the heroes of the Islamic Maghreb, for the mujahideen are determined, God willing … to expose your fabrications each time…” the statement said.