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ALGIERS (Reuters) - Islamist gunmen attacked an Algerian government patrol in an area south of the capital, slightly wounding four gendarmes, the ministry of defence said on Thursday.

Attacks are rare in Algeria since the end of the country's 1990s civil war with Islamist militants, but al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and small brigades allied to Islamic State are active in remote areas.

Gunmen opened fire on the gendarmerie patrol late on Wednesday in Larbaa area in Blida region, around 30 km (19 miles) south of Algiers, the ministry said in a statement carried on APS state news agency.

Algerian armed forces have been cracking down on militants tied to Islamic State. In April, they foiled an attempted suicide bomb attack in the northeastern city of Constantine, with one attacker killed and a second arrested.

Islamist militants have carried out or attempted several attacks on security targets in Constantine in the past few months including the shooting of a policeman in a coffee-house by three gunmen in October 2016.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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