Two Algerian soldiers, including an officer, were killed when a bomb exploded during an army operation in the north of the country, the defence ministry said Sunday.

Captain Fateh Bensmail and Sergeant Zakaria Khaldi were killed Saturday night, the ministry said in a statement, after a home-made bomb exploded during a search and sweep operation in the province of Medea, south of the capital Algiers.

The deaths bring the total number of Algerian soldiers killed this year to four.

One soldier was killed on June 20 in a clash with an armed terrorist group in the central province of Ain Defla, the ministry announced last Sunday, while another died in a February attack in Timiaouine, on the southern border with Mali.

Algerian authorities use the term terrorist to describe armed Islamists who have been active in the country since the early 1990s.

A 1992-2002 civil war pitted Islamist militants against the Algerian government, leaving 200,000 people dead.

Despite a 2005 charter for peace and reconciliation designed to turn the page on the conflict, armed Islamist groups still remain active in some areas of the country, largely targeting security forces.