Sahrawi, who took over as GSPC leader one year ago, was reportedly shot dead with four other militants including one of his deputies, Abi Abdelazi, in the Bejaia region. The group declares support for Al-Qaeda.

Troops have carried out raids in the area after 12 soldiers were killed in an ambush earlier this month. It was reported on 19 June that Algerian security forces killed seven extremists in the eastern Kabylie region, while seven extremists were killed on 17 and 18 June in the Bejaia region.

The GSPC’s strength is not known, but experts estimate it has around 500 fighters. It was created in 1998 with objective to install an Islamic state in Algeria. It grew out of another of Algeria’s leading militant groups, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). GSPC, together with the Islamist GIA has killed tens of thousands of people and kidnapped 32 European tourists in 2003.