The Salafist Group for Call and Combat, known by the acronym GSPC, announced the death of Ahmed Abou al-Baraa, whose real name was Ahmed Zarabib, on Tuesday on its internet site, the Algerian daily Liberte reported on Wednesday.
There was no immediate confirmation of the information by the authorities, who rarely issue statements on violence in
Zarabib, a former mosque prayer leader said to be among the GSPC's founders, was killed on 17 January in mountains near
Toudja, a town 260km east of the capital, Algiers, the newspaper reported.
The GSPC is considered the only structured armed insurgency movement remaining in Algeria, which began battling Muslim fighters in 1992.
The violence has left an estimated 120,000 dead - civilians, soldiers and Muslim insurgents.
The killing of a GSPC figure by security forces would be yet another blow to the movement, born in 1998 of a split among dissidents of the Armed Islamic Group, blamed for numerous bloody massacres at the height of the insurgency.
In 2003, then-GSPC leader Nabil Sahraoui announced allegiance to al-Qaida. Sahraoui was reported killed in June 2004 in an army offensive, along with other ranking members of the group.
The movement, which rejects an amnesty offer from Algerian authorities, is now reportedly led by Abdelmalek Dourkdal.
The first GSPC leader, Hassan Hattab, focused on attacking symbols of the state like soldiers, police officers and others, rather than civilians.
While the GSPC danger is diminishing in Algeria, the movement is considered a threat in Europe, with suspected operatives arrested sporadically in France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere.