ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ An army-led operation against armed Muslim groups in western Algeria has left more than 200 Islamic militants dead in the last 12 days, a pro-government newspaper reported Saturday.

The offensive, backed by air force helicopters, has dealt ``serious blows'' to the groups, the daily El Moudjahid said.

The newspaper did not say whether the government security forces suffered any losses, or whether the operation led to the arrest of any alleged Islamic activists.

Government offensives against the militants are rarely reported, but the most recent one was among the larger of those that have been.

Similar operations in the past have failed to quell an Islamic insurgency that has ravaged Algeria since 1992. The violence, which has killed 75,000 people, began after the government canceled parliamentary elections that the now-banned Islamic Salvation Front was poised to win.

International human rights groups as well as the United Nations have called for an independent inquiry into the violence, but so far the Algerian government has refused, saying such an investigation would amount to interference in the country's domestic affairs.

El Moudjahid reported that the recent operation is continuing in the regions of Mascara, Relizane, Saida, Tiaret and Tissemsilt.

Meanwhile, the daily Liberte reported Saturday that two bomb attacks east of the capital, Algiers, on Thursday and Friday killed two people and wounded nine others.

Security forces defused another bomb before it went off, the newspaper said.

In France, Algeria's former colonial ruler, thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday, demanding an end to the violence. Protesters in Paris marched under a cold drizzle and children in Lyon released red, green and white balloons, the colors of the Algerian flag.