‘Only remnants of terrorism’ left in Algeria: minister

Algerian authorities say 25 Islamist militants are killed in an army sweep this week

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Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said Thursday that “only remnants of terrorism” remain in Algeria, where authorities say 25 Islamist militants were killed in an army sweep this week.

Special forces were mobilized for the sweep, the minister said, quoted by national news agency APS. “Only remnants of terrorism are left in Algeria.”

Algerian newspapers said several jihadist leaders were among those killed, but there was no official confirmation of this.

According to the defense ministry, 25 Islamists have been killed since the army launched operations on Tuesday in the mountainous Ferkioua area of Bouira province, east of Algiers.

The sweep came following information that militants were in the area, a zone of operations of Jund el-Khilafa, a local affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group.

A judicial source said experts were trying to determine if the dead militants were members of Jund al-Khilafa or of Al-Qaeda’s North African branch.

Jund al-Khilafa militants kidnapped and beheaded French mountain guide Herve Gourdel last September in Kabylie, east of Algiers, in retaliation for France participating in US-led air strikes against ISIS in Iraq.

Its leader Abdelmalek Gouri was killed in an army operation last December in Issers, 60 kilometers (35 miles) east of the capital.

The army says it has now killed 59 armed Islamists since the start of this year, after more than 100 were killed in 2014.

Islamist-linked violence rocked Algeria in the 1990s but has since waned, although armed groups remain active in central and eastern Algeria where they mount attacks on security forces.