Al-Qaeda kills 11 paramilitary police in Algerian desert
An attack by Al-Qaeda-linked guerrillas in the Sahara desert left 11 Algerian paramilitary dead on Wednesday. The raid near the border with Mali is the most deadly for nearly a year and comes despite a regional pact to work together to fight Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).
Algiers has yet to officially confirm that the raid, which was reported on the website of El Watan newspaper, took place. Security sources in Mali told the AFP news agency that it had and described it as “well-planned”.
Aqim claimed responsibility in pamphlets left at the scene, reports say, and released one of two prisoners they had taken so that he would give the authorities news of the deaths. A tourist guide has also been captured, according to some reports.
A major military offensive has been taking place to track down an estimated 300 armed men operating in the vast desert area. Last week Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger announced a deal to fight what they called “trans-Sahara terrorism”.
The attack may be a reaction to the dismantling of a support network in the towns of Tamanrasset and Illisi.
Aqim, the successor to the Salafist Group for Preaching, which was founded in the late 1990s, linked to Al-Qaeda in 2006. It funds its operations via the millions of euros it has made from ransoms.
The worst previous attack was last 29 July, when 11 soldiers were killed in an attack on a convoy near the town of Tipasa, west of Algiers.
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