Insurgent ambush 'kills 24 Algerian police'

Insurgents killed 24 Algerian paramilitary police in an ambush on their convoy yesterday evening, a local newspaper reported today.

The ambush, if confirmed, would be the deadliest single attack in months in Algeria, a major oil and gas exporter fighting Islamist militants allied to the al Qaeda network.

Two Algerian security sources, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters there had been an ambush and more than 20 paramilitary police had been killed.

The Echorouk newspaper cited security sources and local people as saying the ambush took place at about 8pm on a stretch of highway between the settlements of El Meher and El Mansourah, about 110 miles east of the capital.

It said the attackers first activated two improvised explosive devices and then opened fire on the convoy. The insurgents left taking arms, weapons and six police off-road vehicles, said the newspaper.

There was no official confirmation of the attack. Algerian authorities often do not isue any formal comment when security personnal have been killed in insurgent attacks.

Algeria, which lies across the Mediterranean from Europe, has been struggling for nearly two decades to get to grips with Islamist insurgents who now operate under the banner of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Security crackdowns and a campaign to persuade the militants to lay down their arms have led to an overall decline in the number of attacks, but there has been an upsurge in violence over the past few weeks.

Insurgents killed five paramilitary gendarmes late in May and a week later shot dead nine soldiers. At the start of this month AQIM killed a British man, Edwin Dyer, after holding him hostage in neighbouring Mali.

Though the group has not targeted oil and gas infrastructure in Algeria, international energy firms - which include BP, StatoilHydro, Repsol and Total - operate under heavy security.

Diplomats say the violence also has the potential to spill over into Europe, where AQIM has a network of undercover cells providing logistical support.

The newspaper report said Wednesday's ambush was carried out on the N5 highway, a major route linking the capital, Algiers, to cities in the east of Algeria.

It said the paramilitary police who came under attack had been assigned to guard a group of Chinese construction workers building a new east-west road link across Algeria. It did not say if any of the workers had been hurt in the attack.

The ambush was a demonstration by a weakened al Qaeda that it is still a threat, said Rachid Ould Bousseafa, the deputy editor of the Echorouk newspaper who writes on security issues.

"Make no mistake: al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is declining," he told Reuters. But he said: "Al Qaeda wanted to send a strong message that it is capable of planning and executing a big attack."

Suggested Topics
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam