Algerian army ambushes militants, two killed east of capital

ALGIERS Tue May 13, 2014 3:28pm EDT

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ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria's military ambushed militants on Tuesday, killing two fighters in an eastern region near where al Qaeda's north Africa branch claimed an attack on an army patrol last month, the defense ministry said.

Troops attacked the militants in Kaddara in Boumerdes province about 50 km (31 miles) east of the capital Algiers early Tuesday morning, according to the ministry statement on APS state news agency.

The eastern mountains were once the stronghold for Islamist militants. Abdelmalek Droukdel, the Algerian university student turned leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, is believed to be hiding in the region.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said it ambushed an army patrol last month, killing 14 soldiers in Tizi Ouzou, 120 km (75 miles) east of Algiers, in the deadliest attack on Algeria's armed forces in years.

The army has killed 39 militants since the start of the year, according to security sources.

Militant attacks are rarer since Algeria ended its decade-long 1990s war with armed Islamists, but the North African branch of al Qaeda and other groups are still active, especially in the south near Libya's porous border.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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