The government said in a statement on Thursday that those killed belonged to the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, a hardline Algerian Islamic group that recently pledged its allegiance to al-Qaida.

 

"The government forces have neutralised the threat from the terrorists," the statement said.

   

It said the 43 Islamic fighters killed included nine Algerians and nationals from Niger, Nigeria and Mali - all countries where the United States fears al-Qaida is recruiting fighters and setting up cells.

   

The statement said three people were killed and 18 wounded on the government side and that loyalist forces had seized weapons, including heavy machineguns, vehicles and satellite phones from the enemy.