ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian authorities are holding 120 men on suspicion of involvement in the insurgency in Iraq, a newspaper reported on Thursday.
Top-selling El Khabar said most of those in custody belonged to the al Qaeda organization in the Islamic Maghreb, a group of Algerian Islamist insurgents that has carried out bomb attacks on police and Western expatriates in Algeria in recent months.
Citing judicial sources, the daily said the 120 Algerians were variously suspected of having fought in Iraq, planning to travel to Iraq to take part in the conflict there or of recruiting Algerians to participate in the conflict.
The 120, aged between 18 and 30, face charges including “membership of a terrorist group and belonging to a terrorist group operating at home and abroad”, the daily said. They are due to go on trial later this year, it said.
Some of the detainees had traveled to Iraq by way of Syria, the newspaper said. The United States has repeatedly accused Syria of not doing enough to prevent foreign fighters crossing its borders to reach Iraq. Syria denies the allegation.
The Islamic Maghreb, previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), adopted the new name in January to deepen ties to al Qaeda.
Founded in 1998, the GSPC began as an offshoot of another armed group that was waging an armed revolt against the government to establish an Islamic state.
The GSPC shared the overall aims of that revolt, which began in 1992 after the then military-backed authorities, fearing an Iran-style revolution, scrapped a parliamentary election that an Islamist political party was set to win.
Up to 200,000 people have been killed in the ensuing bloodshed.