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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Algerian ambush leaves 15 dead
Suspected Islamic extremists killed 15 government soldiers on Sunday in an ambush near Tizi Ouzou, in the Kabylie region of northern Algeria, reports say.

Seven soldiers were also wounded, Algerian newspapers reported.

About 50 members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) were blamed for the assault, which happened on a track running through Mirzana forest, some 100 km (60 miles) east of the capital Algiers.

The rebels reportedly halted a military convoy with a bomb planted on the track and then opened fire with automatic weapons.

Violence accelerates

The government said the killings were part of an attempt to disrupt parliamentary elections on 30 May.

Nearly 50 people have been killed since the beginning of the month.

The ambush also coincided with an operation by the military in a nearby forest in which dozens of GSPC members have been killed in the past two weeks.

The operation is part of a three-month government offensive to root out rebels.

Algeria's bloody civil war began in 1992 when authorities cancelled a parliamentary election in which radical Islamists were front-runners.

Up to 150,000 lives have been lost in the 10 years since.

Prison blaze

Meanwhile, another fire at an Algerian jail has injured 10 prisoners, Reuters news agency reports officials as saying.

The fire broke out at the Boussouf jail in Constantine, about 200 miles east of Algeria.

It is the fourth blaze at an Algerian prison in five weeks.

A cell charred by Saturday's fire
A cell in El Harrach prison

On Saturday, at least 20 prisoners and four wardens were injured in a fire at El Harrach prison that broke out after a brawl.

On 30 April, 19 prisoners were killed at Serkadji prison in the capital.

A previous fire in Chelghoum El Aid, east Algeria, killed 22.

Human rights activists blame overcrowded conditions for the fires.

See also:

02 May 02 | Middle East
Algeria hit by two massacres
01 May 02 | Middle East
'Fourteen dead' in Algeria prison fire
24 Apr 02 | Middle East
Families die in Algerian attack
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Algeria pressed on political killings
29 Mar 02 | Middle East
Algeria market bomb kills two
18 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
18 Mar 02 | Middle East
Timeline: Algeria
06 Mar 02 | Middle East
Militants 'storm Algerian barracks'
11 Jan 02 | Middle East
Algeria's decade of bloody conflict
18 Sep 01 | Middle East
Algeria tackles Islamic militants
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