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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
Algerian soldiers killed in ambush
Map of Algeria
Suspected Islamic militants in Algeria have killed 20 government soldiers in an ambush, the Algerian authorities say.

A member of a civilian self-defence group also died in Monday's attack in mountainous terrain near Moulay Larbi, about 400 kilometres (280 miles) from Algiers.

According to security sources, the troops had been carrying out a search operation for members of an armed Islamic group.

They were travelling in three all-terrain vehicles across a heavily-wooded area when they were ambushed by armed men.

The attack is the bloodiest single incident blamed on militants this year.

Last month, at least 15 pro-government militiamen were killed when suspected Islamic militants attacked an army barracks.

Well over 100,000 people have been killed in Algeria since the military-backed government cancelled an election which Islamic fundamentalists were poised to win in 1992.

Recent arrests

The BBC's North Africa correspondent Stephanie Irvine says the army believes the gunmen were members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) which split several years ago from the Armed Islamic Group.
Relatives weep after yet more killings in Algeria
Up to 150,000 people are believed to have been killed so far in the civil war

She says the attack is believed to be in revenge for the recent arrest of 150 people by the security forces in a sweep against suspected supporters of the GSPC in the area.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika vowed in a recent speech to fight the rebels "without respite".

The conflict has claimed more than 320 lives this year - more than 100 of these being militants caught by the security forces, according to the French news agency AFP.

See also:

08 Mar 02 | Middle East
Suspected rebels kill six in Algeria
06 Mar 02 | Middle East
Militants 'storm Algerian barracks'
09 Feb 02 | Middle East
Antar Zouabri: A violent legacy
11 Jan 02 | Middle East
Algeria's decade of bloody conflict
18 Sep 01 | Middle East
Algeria tackles Islamic militants
13 Jan 00 | Middle East
Algeria: Country profile
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