ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — An armed group attacked and killed 19 people riding in a transport truck on a deserted mountain road in eastern Algeria, newspapers reported Sunday.
It was the second highway ambush reported in recent days. Both took place on Friday.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack that occurred near Gijel, a town with a civilian militia 180 miles east of Algiers. But suspicion fell on Muslim militants fighting a 6-year-old insurgency against the military-backed government.
Gunmen set off an explosive in the road and then fired on the truck, the independent dailies El Watan and Liberte reported Sunday.
The other attack Friday took place near the town of Boghni in the Kabylie region, about 60 miles east of the capital. Twenty-seven soldiers were killed.
Residents said Muslim militants set off explosives under a troop transport truck carrying a fresh group of soldiers to replace a unit guarding an important bridge, then sprayed it with gunfire, the residents said on condition of anonymity.
El Watan reported that the militants seized weapons from the soldiers, but two of the attackers were killed in the gunbattle before the group fled.
It was the first militant attack on an army unit in the Kabylie region in about two years. Hospital sources said the two dead militants were from the Algiers area, the main base of the militants’ Armed Islamic Group that has recently extended its attacks to the east and west of Algiers.
The Kabylie region is populated by ethnic Berbers who are generally hostile to the insurgency. About 1,000 villages in the region have organized government-supported militias, some of them attacked by militants.
The ambushes occurred the same day Algeria’s prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, reit