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Algerian security forces have killed the leader of the warring nation's most violent militant group, militants said Thursday.

Government forces trapped Antar Zouabri, the 26-year-old chief of the Armed Islamic Group, and several of his followers in an old Roman tunnel near the town of Tipaza, 60 miles east of Algiers, Islamic militants said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The death also was reported by French news media, but it could not be independently confirmed. It was not clear when Zouabri was killed, and his death has been reported before, erroneously.

If confirmed, the operation would be one of the biggest government successes yet against the Armed Islamic Group, which has defeated repeated attempts by the security forces to destroy it.

The group is the fiercest rebel faction in the North African nation's 5-year-old Islamic insurgency, in which more than 60,000 people have died. Many of the victims are civilians, killed by the dozens in bombings in cities or throat-slashing attacks on villages.

The group consists of dozens of different cells that operate amid strict secrecy.

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