February 11, 2008 / 6:46 AM / 11 years ago

Qaeda says behind killing of 8 Algerian troops

DUBAI (Reuters) - An al Qaeda group has claimed responsibility for killing eight paramilitary gendarmes in an ambush in eastern Algeria last week.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said in a statement posted late on Sunday on a Web site used by Islamist groups that it had seized the gendarmes’ weapons, bullet-proof vests and night binoculars.

“The operation came as revenge for the killing of our brothers in the recent clashes in the southern region, so the apostates know that they will pay a dear price for every martyr of ours that falls,” said the Arabic-language statement.

The February 7 ambush was the deadliest attack in Algeria since December 11 when 37 people, including 17 United Nations staff, were killed in a double suicide bombing in the capital Algiers.

The attack on the gendarmes occurred in the village of Draa Argayen in the desert province of El Oued, about 500 km (300 miles) southeast of Algiers.

Violence broke out in Algeria in 1992 after military-backed authorities scrapped a parliamentary election that an Islamist party, the Islamic Salvation Front, was set to win.

The violence has fallen since the 1990s, but a spate of suicide bombings in and round Algiers has killed scores in the past 18 months since the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) changed its name to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The group, which declared allegiance to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, claimed responsibility for the December bombings that targeted U.N. offices and a court building.

Reporting by Lin Noueihed, editing by Ralph Gowling

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