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5 held in France in connection with Algeria militant group

A French intelligence operation has dismantled an alleged support network working for an al-Qaeda branch suspected in last week's deadly bombings in Algeria, according to media reports.

A French intelligence operation has dismantled an alleged support network working for anal-Qaeda branch believed to be responsible for last week's deadly bombings in Algeria, according to media reports Thursday.

A French policeofficial told the Associated Press that the men, who are suspected of providing logistical support to al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, were rounded up for questioning Tuesday in the Paris area and near the Normandy city of Rouen.

Five were being held at the headquarters of the DST counterintelligence service, while three other men were released, the official said speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa claimed responsibility for twonear-simultaneoustruck bombings of the UN offices and an Algerian government building in Algiers onDec. 11 that killed at least 37 people, including 17 UN staff members.

Paris newspaper Le Figaroreported seven Algerians and a French citizen had police records and had been under surveillance for months before their arrests.

There was nothing to suggest the men had any direct involvement in the suicide bombings in Algiers, the police official said, adding that they were not suspected of planning attacks in France.

Al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, formally known as the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, or GSPC, is Algeria's last remaining insurgent group.

In recent years, Algeria had largely turned the page on its jihadist movement, which dates back to the early 1990s and was aimed at overthrowing the government and installing an Islamic state.

But the GSPC seems to have bounced back this year after rebranding itself as an al-Qaeda affiliate. Suicide attacks, a new tactic for Algeria's militants, have mimicked bombings in Iraq and other places where al-Qaeda has established a presence.

With files from the Associated Press

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