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Algeria sentences fugitive Qaeda chief to death

A court in Algeria has sentenced a fugitve leader of al-Qaeda's north African wing and three of his followers to death for attacks against the military.

world Updated: Jan 23, 2012 15:18 IST

A court in Algeria has sentenced a fugitve leader of al-Qaeda's north African wing and three of his followers to death for attacks against the military.

The sentence against Mokhtar Belmokhtar and the three others was handed down in absentia last night after a day-long trial in Algiers.

Six other suspected members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who are also currently on the run, received sentences of between two to 20 years.

All 10 had been accused of involvement in acts of terrorism and "participation in voluntary acts of homicide" against members of the armed forces.

Among the attacks on the charge sheet was a deadly attack in May 2010 when an army commander was killed in Djelfa, which lies around 270 kilometres south of Algiers, by members of the group.

Algerian courts have twice sentenced Belmokhtar to life in prison, including in 2008 for the assassination of 13 customs officers, but the authorities have never been able to capture him and enforce the sentence.

Algeria has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 1993.

AQIM also operates in Niger, Mali and Mauritania but its leadership is dominated by Algerians and was previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, founded in the late 1990s with the aim of toppling the Algerian government and creating an Islamic state.