File picture: AFP

Algiers - The Algerian army killed three Islamist militants on Sunday during an operation in a mountainous area of the eastern Kabylie region, the defence ministry said.

Their deaths bring to five the number of Islamists killed since Tuesday in Kabylie, a bastion of armed groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The ministry said troops seized weapons and ammunition and destroyed hideouts used by the militants in the Sidi Ali Bounab region during Sunday's operation.

The region east of Algiers, with its mountains and forests, was a heartland of the Islamist insurrection during Algeria's devastating civil war of the 1990s.

Violence blamed on Islamists has declined considerably in recent years.

But groups affiliated with AQIM continue to attack strategic targets in the eastern Kabylie region, around the capital and in the south. - Sapa-AFP