The fallout from Madrid and Spain’s collapse continues. From Reuters, :
Algerian authorities, on heightened alert ahead of presidential elections next month, have killed 17 Islamic rebels in separate attacks over the past week, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.
Seven of the militants belonged to the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, a hardline group that is fighting for a Taliban-style state and has declared its allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.
Algerians go to the polls on April 8 and authorities have warned that Islamic rebels may try to disrupt the election.
The Interior Ministry statement said the operations were carried out in the provinces of Medea, M’sila and Djelfa — all within 124 miles of the capital Algiers.
Over the past decade more than 150,000 people have died in rebel-linked violence in the North African country, according to human rights groups, sparked by the annulment of general elections a now-banned Islamic party was set to win in 1992.
Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia told a news conference that authorities would be prepared for any attack.
“Without wanting to go into details, security measures have been taken,” Ouyahia said. “Unfortunately until all terrorists have been eliminated they will be using opportunities like this (election) to plan attacks.”
Some 100 Algerians, two-thirds of them rebels, have been killed since the start of the year, according to media reports and official statements.
Western diplomats and security analysts fear the group was seeking to forge greater ties with al Qaeda. Last year it claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of 32 European tourists in the Sahara desert.