9 killed in Algerian violence

Suspected Islamist militants raided a bootleg bar in Algeria and beheaded one of its patrons because he was a prison guard, Algerian media reported Saturday.

Also, a security official confirmed the separate killing of five soldiers and two police officers in a gunbattle.

Extremists disguised as police officers carried out the raid on the bar in the town of Boghni, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Algiers on Thursday, the El Watan newspaper reported.

The paper, which tends to be reliable on terrorism-related stories, said the suspected Islamists robbed bar patrons and beheaded one of them after finding out he worked as a prison guard. The group also kidnapped an Algerian-born emigrant in an apparent bid to win a ransom, a frequent practice in the area.

Although alcohol is legal in Algeria, it is shunned by many practicing Muslims, and bars have frequently been targeted by militants in the past. It was not clear whether the group targeted the bar because it served alcohol or because it wanted to loot it.

Separately, five soldiers and two police officers were killed in a gunbattle with al-Qaida linked extremists in the hilly Batna region, 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of Algiers, local media reported.

Several newspapers quoted witnesses as saying the gunfight broke out late Wednesday after security forces confronted militants who had set up a fake military checkpoint to stop and rob travelers.

A security official in the Batna region confirmed the death toll of seven. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with the media.

The Algerian military rarely comments on ongoing operations, and there has been no official confirmation of the clash. Media reported a dozen soldiers were injured in the fighting, but provided no details about casualties among militants.

Also Wednesday, another guard was killed by a bomb in the Ain Delfa area, 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of the capital, newspaper reports said, citing security unidentified sources.

The bloodshed comes as the army and police are conducting vast sweeps to track down militants who claimed responsibility for a spate of bombings this month that killed at least 60 people.

Violence has surged in Algeria since 2006, when the last extremist group left from a civil war in the 1990's joined al-Qaida, adopting the name Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa.

On Friday, the state-run APS news agency said three militants were killed in an army-led ambush a day earlier in the Lakhdaria hills in the Bouira region 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Algiers. It said a 4-year-old girl was killed and her grandmother badly injured in the crossfire.

APS also reported another militant was killed during a gunfight with security forces in the town of Bouderbala, located in the same region.

The latest bloodshed has raised to at least 107 the number of people killed in the violence this month alone, AP reported.

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