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ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian troops ambushed and killed five armed Islamists in an ongoing operation in an eastern region known as a former stronghold for hardline militants, the defence ministry said on Thursday.

Five Kalashnikov rifles and a quantity of ammunition were also recovered during the operation by the army on Wednesday in the Bouira province, some 70 km (43 miles) east of the capital, the statement said.

Bouira was inside one of the strongholds for Islamist militants during a war with between the government and fighters in the 1990s that left 200,000 people dead.

Violence has declined in Algeria since then. But al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and small bands of militants allied to Islamic State have been active in some remote mountains and in the southern desert border regions.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; editing by Patrick Markeya and Toby Chopra)

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