Key Qaeda militant killed in Algeria: security

A militant charged with liaising between Al-Qaeda and its North African branch Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been killed in an ambush by Algerian forces, security officials said today.

Boualem Bekai, who was known as Khaled El Mig, was killed on Friday at Azrou some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Tizi Ouzou region east of the capital, the APS news agency cited the officials as saying.

His identity was confirmed today by his family who collected his body from the hospital at Tizi Ouzou, the sources said.

The 45-year-old AQIM member became an Islamist militant at the beginning of the country's civil war in the 1990s.

His group is suspected of being behind several attacks in the region, including an April 2011 assault on an Algerian military barracks at Azazga near Tizi Ouzou that killed 14 soldiers.

The Azazga guard post is on the edge of the dense Yakouren forest, where AQIM is active.

AQIM, headed by Abdelmalek Droukdel, emerged in early 2007 from an Algerian armed Islamist movement, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. It operates in several northwestern African countries, including Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The group has since been boosted by the turmoil in neighbouring Mali that followed a coup there in March, with hardline Islamists occupying the country's vast northern region.

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