ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian troops killed eight suspected militants in the eastern Bouira region where they have been tracking an al Qaeda splinter group that killed a French tourist, state news agency APS reported.
Three suspected militants were killed on Friday and another five were killed on Saturday in Bouira, east of the capital Algiers, APS said, citing an unnamed security source.
The mountains in Bouira are home to elements from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and also to splinter group Caliphate Soldiers which has declared its loyalty to Islamic State militants fighting in Iraq and Syria.
A separate security source told Reuters that one of the militants killed in the weekend operation was a commander of the Farouk brigade, one of strongest remaining elements of AQIM in Algeria.
Caliphate Soldiers last month declared their split from AQIM and pledged allegiance to the commander of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria whose rise has challenged al Qaeda’s global leadership among militant jihadist ranks.
The Algerian splinter group claimed soon after to have kidnapped French tourist Herve Gourdel, who was taken while hiking in the mountains, and later beheaded in a video released by the group.
They said the killing was punishment for French strikes against Islamic State extremists.
Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky