Islamists kill 7 Algerian guards

ALGIERS: An armed Islamist group on Thursday killed seven private security guards in an ambush in the Kabylie region east of the capital, residents and security sources said.

The group of guards were on their way to pick up employees of the Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin when they were attacked 25 kilometres (16 miles) south of Tizi Ouzou.

Six of the guards were killed instantly and the body of the seventh was found near the site of the ambush.

The driver of the bus was badly wounded in the attack and taken to hospital in the nearby town of Boghni.

It was the deadliest attack in the country since July, when Islamists killed 11 in an attack on a military convoy.

Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin is building a water pipe network in the drought-hit area south of Tizi Ouzou.

Shortly after the ambush, security forces launched a sweep of the area, local people said.

The string of attacks has been blamed on Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which emerged out of the Algerian fundamentalist Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat and sees itself as the north African wing of Osama bin Laden's network.

Earlier this month Algerian government forces killed an armed Islamist identified as AQIM commander Mourad Louzai.

In recent weeks, the security forces claim to have killed several dozen armed Islamists, including Bilal Abou Adnane, who was one of AQIM's deputy regional chiefs.