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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Algeria Puts Militant Base Under Siege

ALGIERS, Algeria -- Algerian troops have killed more than 40 rebels and are besieging more than 200 guerrillas in a huge assault on the headquarters of the main Moslem rebel leader in western Algeria, an Algerian newspaper said Monday.


Troops helped by paramilitary forces have fanned out in a major operation in El Gouassem town in the western province of Tissemsilt since last Wednesday, said the newspaper, El Watan, quoting security sources and residents.


They were ringing the headquarters of Ahmed Benaicha, deputy chief of the Islamic Salvation Army, or AIS, the armed wing of the outlawed radical Islamic Salvation Front, the paper said. The rebel headquarters was used a training ground for the Moslem guerrillas and had a rebel field hospital, it said.


The government troops' advance was slow because of the rugged area and mines planted by the rebels, it added.


Two similar anti-guerrilla operations were going on near the western Maghnia region near the Moroccan border, and near Khemis el Khechna, some 50 kilometers south of Algiers, said El Watan, widely seen as well-informed on security matters.


The authorities, midway through campaigning for the June 5 parliamentary election, have made no statement so far on the reported operations.


The government, fighting a five-year-old campaign by Moslem militants, has offered residents 4.5 million dinars (over $80,000) for information leading to the capture or killing of Benaicha and AIS's chief, Madani Merzag.