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Al-Qaida offshoot claims Algeria attacks

Wednesday 7 October 2009, by siawi2

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) - Al-Qaida’s North African offshoot claimed it killed or injured dozens of Algerian security forces in 29 separate attacks and bombings over the past two months, despite the intense military pressure that appears to have seriously limited the militants’ scope.
The claim Monday by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, came as security forces reported that they killed eight suspected Islamist fighters over the weekend.
The militants said they killed or injured more than 80 members of the army, police and other security forces from early August to late September, along with three former insurgents who switched sides and collaborated with the government, and one spy.
Their count was about twice as high as that of the Algerian media over the same period. Authorities typically do not comment on security incidents and have only confirmed a handful of attacks over the summer and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended this year on Sept. 19 in Algeria.
The statement by AQIM was posted on Internet sites frequently used by extremists. Its authenticity could not be independently confirmed, but it was quoted Monday by the Washington-based SITE intelligence group, which monitors militant messages.
Most of the attacks claimed by AQIM occurred to the east of Algiers in the often-restive region of Kabylie, where militants have bases in the mountains and where the army has been conducting large sweeps for months.
The militants said they attacked a police outpost in the town of Draa ben Khedda, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) east of the capital.
But most of the casualties they claimed were from small-scale roadside bombs against army or police patrols - reflecting the fact that they have proved unable to conduct large-scale suicide bombings or attacks in urban centers for more than a year.
The claim came as security forces reported they faced off with suspected insurgents in three separate clashes over the past few days, killing at least eight.
In the main crackdown of the last few days, gendarmerie police forces killed five alleged militants and captured one Sunday near the town of Djelfa, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Algiers, a local police official said.
The militants in a van were being tailed by plainclothes police, who alerted a security checkpoint down the road, the police officer said, requesting anonymity because Algerian security officials are forbidden from discussing security matters.
The insurgents opened fire on the police and were slain, he said, adding that there were no government casualties.
Algerian media have reported that security forces have killed at least two dozen suspected insurgents since early August.
AQIM fighters are a leftover from a civil war between radical Islamists and government forces that killed up to 200,000 people in Algeria during the 1990s. Violence has since largely abated, but AQIM continues to regularly target government forces and has stepped up attacks against foreigners in recent years. The group officially merged with al-Qaida in 2006.

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