ALGIERS — Gunmen killed 11 Algerian soldiers in an ambush overnight, the defence ministry said on Sunday, in the first attack of its kind since President Abdelaziz Bouteflika won a fourth term.
The attack took place in the restive Kabylie region east of Algiers, where discontent with the ailing 77-year-old Bouteflika was most evident during the presidential election.
The troops were from a unit that had been deployed as part of a security operation during Thursday's vote and were heading back to their barracks when they were ambushed, the ministry said.
Eleven soldiers were killed in the attack in which two of the assailants also died, said a statement. The national APS news agency said earlier that 14 troops were killed, citing a security source.
The defence ministry said a convoy of the People's National Army was attacked by a "terrorist group" near Iboudrarene in Kabylie, and that five soldiers were also wounded.
"Such criminal action only serves to reinforce the army's determination to eliminate diehard terrorist groups," the ministry said.
It said a search operation for the assailants was under way in Iboudrarene, a cluster of around 10 villages, and that "so far three terrorists were eliminated and two Kalashnikov assault rifles seized."
Witnesses said security reinforcements had been dispatched to Kabylie, a rugged region where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is active and has carried out operations against government forces.
The attackers laid the ambush on a main road between two villages in the mountainous region where Islamist militants who battled the army during the civil war in the 1990s still operate.
A defence ministry statement said earlier that the "Boumerdes-Tizi Ouzou-Bouira road (in Kabylie) remains the area where anti-terrorist operations have had the most significant results" this year. — AFP