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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Army kills Algeria militant, group says

ALGIERS, Jan 31 (Reuters) - One of the founders of Algeria's largest outlawed Islamic militant group has been killed in a clash with security forces, the al Qaeda-aligned organisation said in a statement published on the Internet on Tuesday.

The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) said Ahmed Zerabib was killed near Bejaia town, 300 km (190 miles) east of Algiers, on a recent Tuesday evening. It did not specify which week.

"This is a statement to announce the death of sheikh Ahmed Abi Al Bara in a big clash with the Algerian army in the region of Bejaia. Our sheikh was a founder of our organisation and its mufti (religious leader)," the statement carried on an Islamist Web site said, using Zerabib's nickname.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

The statement, dated Jan. 28, appeared on the Internet on Tuesday. The GSPC is on a U.S. list of foreign terrorist organisations.

Late last year, Algerians approved a government offer of partial amnesty for rebels still fighting for a purist Islamic state, in a move to end more than a decade of civil war in which more than 150,000 have died, mostly civilians.

The GSPC rejected the offer, according to an Internet statement.

The Islamic uprising began when the army in 1992 cancelled legislative elections, which the Islamic Salvation Front was poised to win. The authorities feared an Iranian-style revolution.
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