ALGIERS (Reuters) - Islamist rebels killed nine security guards working at a gas installation east of Algiers late on Sunday, local witnesses and media said.
The attack took place in the mountainous region of Kabylie where Algerian security forces have been battling Al Qaeda's north African wing, which has claimed responsibility for a string of bombings in the OPEC member country in recent years.
The latest attack, about 120 km (75 miles) from the capital, was the deadliest reported in half a year and continues a recent upsurge in violence after a period of relative calm.
Two roadside bombs killed seven people near Algeria's border with Tunisia on February 12, hours after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said he would stand for a third term in office.
Days later, an Algerian newspaper said Islamic militants had killed eight soldiers in two separate attacks.
Sunday's attack resulted in two people being wounded in the Ziama Mansouriah commune in the coastal province of Jijel.
The fighting began when a mortar bomb was fired at the security guards' quarters before the compound was assaulted by a large number of "terrorists", newspaper El Watan said on its website.
The guards were working for security firm SPAS under contract to state gas company Sonelgaz, El Watan said.
Sonelgaz says SPAS provides security for its sites and infrastructure across the country.
An Italian Foreign Ministry official said an attack happened near a site in Algeria where engineers from the Italian company Astaldi were working. An Astaldi source in Rome said none of the company's workers were hurt.
Al Qaeda's north African wing is the remnant of a much broader insurgency that shook Algeria during the 1990s but has largely died out since the government offered successive amnesties to encourage rebels to disarm.