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By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Suspected Islamist militants attacked an oil pipeline in northern Algeria on Monday, killing two guards and wounding seven other people, a security source told Reuters.
The Djebahia region, some 70 km (45 miles) east of the capital, is a stronghold of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which earlier this month killed 37 foreigners at a gas plant in the south, and is where its leader Abdelmalek Droukdel is believed to be based, the source said.
Militant attacks are relatively rare in the north of the country where there is a heavy security presence that pushed most AQIM activities south.
"In comparison to the In Amenas attack, this is a very minor event," the source said, referring to the gas plant attack.
AQIM's leader Droukdel is believed to be somewhere in a triangle of three northern cities: Boumerdes, Bouira and Tizi Ouzou, some 1,600 km (1,000 miles) from In Amenas, and has limited contact with other senior members of the group, the source said.
"The links are almost non-existent, and evidence of that is that there are no Libyan weapons with AQIM's militants in the north," a security source who asked not to be named told Reuters. The In Amenas attackers used arms smuggled across the desert border from Algeria's eastern neighbour.
Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy