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Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 15:24 GMT
Top Islamist militant 'killed' in Algeria
Tens of thousands have been killed in the conflict
The head of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), one of two main extremist groups in Algeria's brutal civil war, is reported to have been killed by security forces near Algiers.

Antar Zouabri and two other terrorists were shot dead by security forces on Friday at Boufarik

Security forces statement
Antar Zouabri, who had led the GIA since 1996, was killed late on Friday along with two colleagues in a gunfight at a house in his hometown of Boufarik, south of Algiers, the Algerian Government said in a statement.

He has been reported dead by newspapers several times in the past, but this is the first time the government has announced his death.

The GIA has taken a leading role in the civil war, costing tens of thousands of lives, which began after an Islamic party was prevented from taking power in Algeria following elections in 1992.


"Antar Zouabri and two other terrorists were shot dead by security forces on Friday at Boufarik," the statement said.

Antar Zouabri
Zouabri led one of Algeria's most feared militant groups
It added that police had been given the tip-off that Mr Zouabri was in a safe house near Boufarik's main stadium.

"Security forces were deployed in the area. A clash took place, leading to the neutralisation of the three terrorists, among them Zouabri," it said.

The authorities blamed Mr Zouabri for his part in a series of massacres and for encouraging GIA soldiers to kidnap thousands of girls to use as sex slaves in mountainous tunnels and caves.

Algerian intelligence said he evaded police and army manhunts by travelling with hundreds of fellow rebels, often through rugged mountains and thick forests.

The leader of hardline Group for Salafist Preaching and Combat, Hassan Hattab, is now thought to be the only other major rebel leader still alive in Algeria.

The BBC's Nick Hawton
"The GIA is believed to be responsible for the murders of thousands of civilians"
Algeria expert Saad Jabber
"It will not change the political map of violence in Algeria"

algerian timeline puffobx
See also:

09 Feb 02 | Middle East
Antar Zouabri: A violent legacy
11 Jan 02 | Middle East
Algeria's decade of bloody conflict
15 Oct 01 | Middle East
Killings in Algeria ambush
18 Sep 01 | Middle East
Algeria tackles Islamic militants
24 Jul 01 | Middle East
Family massacred in Algeria
13 Jan 00 | Middle East
Analysis: An unstable peace
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