Insurgent ambush kills 24 Algerian police: report

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Insurgents killed 24 Algerian paramilitary police in an ambush on their convoy late yesterday, a local newspaper reported this morning.

There was no official comment on the report but if confirmed it would be the deadliest single attack in months in Algeria, where the government is fighting an Islamist insurgency allied to the al Qaeda network.

It took place at about 8pm on a highway between the settlements of El Meher and El Mansourah about 180 km (110 miles) east of the capital, the Echorouk newspaper cited security sources and local people as saying.

It said the attackers first activated two improvised explosive devices and then opened fire on the convoy. The insurgents left, taking with them arms, weapons and six police off-road vehicles, said the newspaper.

Algeria, a major oil and gas producer across the Mediterranean from Europe, has been struggling for nearly two decades to get to grips with Islamist insurgents who now operate under the banner of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The number of attacks has been in overall decline but there has been an upsurge in violence over the past few weeks.

Insurgents killed five paramilitary gendarmes late in May and a week later shot dead nine soldiers. At the start of this month AQIM killed a British man, Edwin Dyer. The group had been holding him hostage in neighbouring Mali.