ALGIERS, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- Algeria's counterterrorism forces on Monday arrested the Number Two leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Salah Gasmi, alias Mohamed Abu Salah, local media reported.
After being informed of the AQIM senior official's whereabouts in Cheurfa in Bouira province, 130 km southeast of the capital Algiers, security forces arrested him near a restaurant at around 2 p.m. (1300 GMT) Monday, TSA news website reported citing security sources.
Abu Salah is being interrogated by security services, the sources said.
Hailing from Biskra province, 420 km southeast of Algiers, Abu Salah is in charge of internal communication and coordination in the Kabylie region for AQIM, and is recognized as the Number Two leader in this al-Qaida linked organization.
Algerian counterterrorism forces have dealt heavy blows to AQIM recently. In mid-November, three AQIM militants were killed, including Makhfi Rabah, senior official in charge of military and close to AQIM's chief Abdelmalek Droukdel. In October, army forces killed Bekai Boualem, alias Khaled El Mig, who was in charge of coordination between AQIM and al-Qaida.
AQIM emerged in early 2007 from the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an Algerian armed Islamist movement. It currently operates in northwest Africa, including Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. A number of attacks were attributed to the group, including the triple suicide bomb attacks on April 11, 2007, in Algiers, which claimed the lives of 20 people and injured 222 others, according to official figures.