At least 13 fighters and an army officer were killed when Algerian military helicopters bombed a convoy carrying weapons across the desert, a news report said on Tuesday.
Algeria’s army bombed three four-wheel-drive vehicles deep in the desert on Thursday near the North African country’s southern border with Mali, El Watan newspaper reported.
Fighters retaliated by firing a rocket launcher at the helicopter, wounding an army officer who died en route to hospital, the paper said.
Defence officials did not respond to telephone calls seeking comment on Tuesday, a national holiday in Algeria.
US training exercise
The bombing came just days after the US military ended a three-week anti-terrorism exercise with African troops aimed at sharpening defences against fighters based in north and west Africa, including Algeria.
Some 700 US troops and 2100 soldiers from nine African nations – including Algeria and Mali – conducted mock patrols, target practice and parachute drops from C-130 transport planes with hundreds of African soldiers.
US officials have said that as many as 25% of the foreign fighters in Iraq hail from North Africa and that a small number of fighters are returning home, trained in guerrilla tactics and bomb-making.
The fighters targeted on Thursday are believed to belong to a branch of Algeria’s Salafist Group for Call and Combat, or GSPC, El Watan said.
The GSPC – said to have links to al-Qaida – is the most structured group among Algerian Islamic insurgents battling the state since 1992 in a bid to topple the government.