The Algerian army has killed three members of the Islamist group that beheaded French tourist Hervé Gourdel in September, the army said Tuesday, including the leader of Jund al-Khilafa, which has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group.
The body of militant leader Abdelmalek Gouri was positively identified at the end of an operation "that allowed us to eliminate three terrorists" in the town of Isser, the army said in a statement.
Ennahar TV had reported earlier that the army killed militant leader Gouri and two other members of Jund al-Khilafa in the same operation.
The army said on Saturday that it had killed three Islamist gunmen in a mountainous area near Sidi Daoud and that one of them was a "dangerous criminal" wanted since 1995, when the hunt for Gouri was launched. Soldiers seized a large quantity of guns, ammunition and explosives during the operation.
Algerian Justice Minister Tayeb Louh said on December 11 that Algerian soldiers had killed two members of Jund al-Khilafa implicated in Gourdel's murder, following the death of another of the group's members in October.
Jund al-Khalifa fi Ard al-Jazayer, or the Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria, have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group and claimed responsibility for Gourdel’s killing, saying it was in retaliation for France’s intervention against IS militants in Iraq.
A little-known group that split from al Qaeda’s North African branch, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Jund al-Khalifa announced its allegiance to the IS group in a statement released on September 13.
At the time Gouri, who went by the nom de guerre Khaled Abu Suleiman, said he had broken away from AQIM because the al Qaeda branch had “deviated from the true path”.
An avid hiker, Gourdel, 55, was kidnapped in September and later beheaded by the group that was formed at the end of August after splintering from AQIM and united with the IS group.
Violence involving armed Islamists has fallen considerably since Algeria's civil war of the 1990s, but groups linked to AQIM continue to launch attacks in the northeast, mostly on security forces.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-12-23