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13 Algerian Soldiers Killed by Militants

People listen to the speech of Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on a giant television screen in Algiers, April 15, 2011

In Algeria, suspected militants opened fire on an army post east of Algiers, killing at least 13 soldiers.

Security officials and residents said at least one attacker was killed. The attack took place late Friday, just as President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was announcing a series of constitutional reforms in a speech to the nation.

A news report by The Associated Press quotes officials who said Saturday that security forces searched the attack scene, about 130 kilometers from the capital, and Yakouren, an adjacent forested area, known as a hideout for members of the terror group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

In his televised address, Bouteflika said he intends to change the country's electoral laws, revise the constitution and ensure free and fair elections in the future - all in the interest of strengthening democratic conditions in Algeria.

President Bouteflika has faced growing pressure from a pro-democracy movement that has staged several public protests calling for reform.

On Tuesday, thousands of demonstrators - mostly students - marched toward the presidential palace in Algiers. News reports said some demanded the resignation of Education Minister Rashid Hawarbia, and others chanted slogans calling for a complete change of government.

As a concession to the opposition two months ago, President Bouteflika lifted the state of emergency in effect in Algeria for 19 years, when the country was in a state of civil war.

Bouteflika rose to the presidency in 1999, more than six years after the emergency was declared. He had strong backing from the military that had ruled the country earlier, and won 94 percent of the vote - a figure that was criticized as false - after all opposition candidates dropped out of the race.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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