A court in Algeria has sentenced to death the chief of the local offshoot of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, Abdelmalek Droukdel, in absentia in connection with a series of suicide bombings in the country.

Eight co-defendants were also convicted of being members of a terrorist organization and for possession of explosives used in the bombing campaign. A total of eighteen people were on trial.

On Monday, another court in the city of Bouira in the eastern part of Algeria also sentenced Droukdel and three other defendants to death in absentia on charges of terrorism and mass murder.

Droukdel, 41, who also uses the alias Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud, is the leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), a fundamentalist group that seeks the formation of one state under Islamic Shania law across much of North Africa. The group is in active in Algeria, Mali and Mauritania.

BBC reported that charges related to bomb attacks in the capital city of Algiers in 2007 which killed almost two dozen people and wounded 200 others. Droukdel is also believed to have participated in the bombing of the Algerian Prime Minister’s office -- an act that killed another 12 people.

Droukdel, an engineer by training, reportedly fought in Afghanistan where he received bomb-making training and was apparently inspired by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former al-Qaeda chief of Iraq. The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in 2006.

According to Agence France Presse (AFP), the organization that Droukdel led was originally called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. By 2004, he took over the group by killing off rivals, and later changed its name to AQIM.

AFP indicated that Droukdel introduced suicide bombing to Algeria and commands a force of totally loyal soldiers