Algeria kills senior al-Qaeda operative

2012-01-03 22:30

Algiers - Algerian security forces have shot dead a senior operative of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the interior minister announced Tuesday.

Mohand Ouramdane, also known as El Khechkhache ("the genius" in the local Arabic dialect), was the "emir", or leader, of an AQIM cell in Algeria's northeastern region of Tizi Ouzou.

"The security situation keeps improving," Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia was quoted as saying by the official APS news agency.

Ouramdane was killed Monday in an ambush by the Algerian military 3km east of Tizi Ouzou, security sources said.

The minister added that three other Islamist militants were killed on Saturday in the same area, which has been the scene of frequent attacks by groups affiliated to AQIM.

AQIM also operates in Niger, Mali and Mauritania but its leadership is dominated by Algerians and was previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, founded in the late 1990s with the aim of toppling the Algerian government and creating an Islamic state.