WORLD / Africa
Algeria suicide attack aimed at president kills 15
Updated: 2007-09-07 14:13
ALGIERS -- A suicide bomber killed 15 people and injured 74 in an assassination attempt in eastern Algeria against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, national television reported.
Bouteflika appeared on television just after the bomb attack near a mosque in the city of Batna to denounce the attackers as "criminals" and vow to pursue his national reconciliation policy.
The North African nation is still recovering from a civil war in the 1990s that left more than 150,000 dead.
The suicide bomber struck only five months after attacks claimed by Al-Qaeda's offshoot in North Africa which killed at least 43 people and injured scores.
The attacker was part of a crowd awaiting a visit by the president in the centre of Batna. Witnesses quoted by national television said the bomb was hidden in a plastic bag.
The attacker was discovered by the crowd and set off the bomb before the president arrived, the report said. Panic set into the crowd after the explosion.
Authorities did not immediately confirm whether the suicide bomber was among the dead. No details were given immediately about the identity of the attacker.
It was the closest that a militant attack has come to the president.
Bouteflika was immediately informed and immediately visited survivors of the attack at the main hospital in Batna. He later went to the scene of the explosion where supporters were waiting.
In an appearance on television, Bouteflika condemned the perpetrators as "criminals."
"I will not for a single moment renounce the political project built on national reconciliation and security for all Algerians," he said.
Under Bouteflika's policy, a presidential pardon is offered to Islamist militants who surrender. About 2,000 Islamists have been freed from prison and the authorities say about 300 militants have given themselves up.
Just before the attack, Bouteflika had spoken to a group of veterans from the war of independence against France's colonial forces.
He said that "national reconciliation was a strategic choice for the Algerian people, an irreversible choice."