Wave of bomb attacks kills 6 in Algeria

Updated: 2007-02-14 08:37

LGIERS, Algeria - A group linked to al-Qaida staged seven near-simultaneous bomb attacks Tuesday, targeting police in several towns east of Algiers and killing six people, officials said.

A police officer patrols near a damaged house in Si-Mustapha, near Boumerdes, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of the capital, Algiers, Tuesday Feb.13, 2007 after a bomb exploded in the middle of the town, wounding five policemen. A wave of bombings mostly targeting police killed six people and injured nearly 30 others in Algeria on Tuesday, according to the official news agency and police and hospital staff. [AP]

Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa - the new name for the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, known by its French acronym GSPC - claimed responsibility for the attacks in a telephone call to the Al-Jazeera television network and in a statement on the Internet. The group allied itself with al-Qaida last year, raising the stakes in the region's fight against terrorism.

The seven bombings, some of them car explosions, hit the Kabylie region east of Algiers between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. Tuesday, the state news agency said.

The apparently coordinated attacks surprised the North African country, which has steadily emerged from an Islamic insurgency that killed more than 150,000 people in the 1990s. While scattered violence by the GSPC continues, such carefully planned strikes are rare in today's Algeria, an ally in the US-led war against terrorism.

The attackers' statement claimed casualties were much higher and accused the Interior Ministry of playing down the impact. The statement said the attacks targeted six police stations and "ended successfully."

The bombings quashed Algerian authorities' claims that the GSPC lately had grown weaker, said Mohamed Darif, a terrorism expert at Morocco's Mohammedia University.

"This is to show that (the GSPC) is still capable of launching attacks in the heart of Algeria," Darif said.

The Interior Ministry said six people were killed, including two police officers, according to the state news agency. The ministry also reported 13 wounded, and said 10 of them were police.

Police and hospital staff put the number of wounded at 30.

"I was wakened by a terrific crash that shattered the windows of my house," said Yassine, who lives near a police station that was targeted in the town of Boumerdes. He asked that his last name not be published because he feared for his safety.

"I went outside and found the facade of the police station in ruins, with the carcass of a bombed car next to it."

The attack was not the first in Boumerdes. "The Islamists have always used this area as a hideout," Yassine said. "Lately we thought things had calmed down."

Although down to a few hundred members, the GSPC carries out regular bomb attacks in Algeria and raises funds in Europe for al-Qaida's operations in Iraq. In December, the group staged a bomb attack on buses carrying foreign workers of an affiliate of US energy services giant Halliburton, killing an Algerian bus driver and wounding nine people.

Top World News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours