ALGIERS: At least 11 Algerian soldiers were killed in an ambush by Islamic extremists while they escorted a military convoy in an Algerian tourist region, reports said on Thursday. Some newspapers put the number of dead as high as 21 after Wednesday’s attack in which a military convoy was ambushed outside the coastal town of Damous, near Tipaza, about 70 kilometers from the capital Algiers.
Press reports said the convoy was targeted by several bombs, after which a firefight broke out that lasted around 20 minutes. The Arabic newspaper Al-Khabar said five of the extremists were killed.
There was no official confirmation of the reports.
Damous is a popular beach town 15 kilometers from Tipaza, which is renowned for its Roman ruins.
Papers said that the afternoon ambush took place on the main highway linking Algiers with the northeast of the country. The convoy was carrying supplies for a military base further inland when the explosions halted it and about 30 men then opened fire on the troops.
Five Islamists were killed when the soldiers shot back and a helicopter search was swiftly launched to track down the extremists.
The attack was among the deadliest for Algerian security forces this year. On June 17, 18 gendarmerie troops and a civilian were killed in an attack on a military convoy near Bordj Bou Arreridj, about 200 kilometers southeast of Algiers.
Local sources said that the soldiers were returning after escorting to base a group of Chinese workers building the future motorway intended to cross the whole of the north African country from east to west.
The Algerian military regularly carries out “search and destroy” operations against radicals of Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is blamed for most of the attacks on forces of the secular regime. A major hunt was launched in the wake of that ambush.
The military responds to attacks with both ground forces and helicopter gunships, since AQIM extremists hide out in mountainous and wooded areas that are hard to reach overland. – AFP