Algerian forces kill 15 Islamic militants-papers

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ALGIERS, Oct 27 (Reuters) Algerian government forces, stepping up attacks on al Qaeda-aligned armed groups, killed 15 militants and captured seven in the past two days near the Tunisian border, newspapers reported today.

They also seized large quantities of ammunition and destroyed several hideouts in the operation in Tebessa province, 630 km east of the capital Algiers, the government-owned El Moudjahid said, citing a security source.

One army officer was killed in the offensive, which was launched by a combined force of the army, police and municipal guards, based on information provided by a rebel who had surrendered, the independent newspaper Liberte said.

The rebel group may have had links to a failed assassination attempt on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Batna town in September, said the independent daily El Watan.

The Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb claimed the attempt in Batna by a suicide bomber, in which 22 people were killed, as well as three other suicide bombings this year.

The armed movement, previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), has switched to high-profile urban bombings.

Seventy-five people were killed in political violence last month including 60 in suicide blasts, according to a Reuters account based on newspaper reports.

Algeria is emerging from more than a decade of conflict that began when the military-backed government scrapped 1992 legislative elections a radical Islamic party was poised to win.

Authorities had feared an Iranian-style revolution. Up to 200,000 people have been killed during the ensuing violence.

The bloodshed has subsided in recent years and last year the government freed more than 2,000 former Islamist guerrillas under an amnesty designed to put an end to the conflict.

REUTERS SG VC1637

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