The escalation of Islamist violence in Algeria continued in recent days, bringing to more than 100 the number killed since the new year. On 7 January, eight soldiers were killed by two bombs near Tizi Ouzou in the Kabylie region. The same day a family of five were shot dead in the Chlef province, 200 kilometres west of Algiers. Another soldier and an armed civilian were killed in Batna, southeast of the capital, where a devastating ambush recently killed 43 soldiers and militiamen (MEED 6:1:03
). The deaths represent one of the most intense periods of violence since the beginning of the Islamist uprising in 1992. The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which the government believes is linked to Al-Qaeda, was blamed for the attack on the soldiers. Commentators in Algeria suggest that the upsurge in violence is a reaction against President Bouteflika's policy of national reconciliation, which the Salafists and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) reject. Members of Al-Qaeda are also reported to be at large in the Kabylie region.
The UK on 7 January turned the spotlight on Algeria's links with terrorism, after police revealed that they had arrested five Algerians caught producing a deadly poison, ricin, in London. Most of the terrorist suspects arrested in Europe since 11 September have been north African, with the largest proportion being Algerian. Many militant Islamists who began an armed struggle with the Algiers government in 1992 have fled to Europe to escape government forces.