Al Qaeda claims deadly Algiers bombings

But wait!! I thought US military presence in Iraq was the sole cause of Islamo-terrorism. Nothing to see here. Just blame Bush and move along.

Al Qaeda claims deadly Algiers bombings – Yahoo! News

ALGIERS (Reuters) – Bombs killed 30 people in Algeria’s capital on Wednesday, attacks claimed by al Qaeda that raised fears the north African oil exporter was slipping back into the intense political violence of the 1990s.

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One of the blasts, believed to be a suicide bombing, ripped part of the facade off the prime minister’s headquarters in the centre of Algiers. A second bomb hit Bab Ezzouar on its eastern outskirts, the official APS news agency said.

The Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the bombings in an Internet statement, in which it also claimed responsibility for attacks in neighboring Morocco and pictures of three “martyrs.”

The claim could not immediately be verified but the group, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), has taken responsibility for a number of deadly attacks on security forces and foreigners in Algeria since January.

Newspaper editor Mounir Boudjema said the prime minister’s office was hit because it was Algeria’s “World Trade Center” — a prestige target like the New York buildings hit in 2001.

Hospital sources put the toll from the two bombings at 30. Earlier, APS put the toll at 23 dead with 162 wounded.

Leila Aissaoui, 25, stood crying near the government palace.

“I thought explosions in Algiers were over,” she said. “I made a big mistake and I can’t accept this.”

Algeria descended into violence in 1992 after the then military-backed authorities scrapped a parliamentary election which an Islamist political party was set to win. Up to 200,000 people were killed in the ensuing bloodshed.

That violence subsided in recent years following amnesties for insurgents, but rumbles on in mountains east of Algiers.

Residents said Wednesday was the first time since the 1990s that a powerful bomb had hit the centre of the Mediterranean city, where police had stepped up security following a rise in attacks by insurgents in the countryside.

GAPING HOLE

The blast at the prime minister’s headquarters gouged a gaping hole in the six-story building, shattering windows and showering rubble on to cars for blocks around.

Police sources said the attack was a suicide bombing.

Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, who has been campaigning for May 17 parliamentary elections, was quoted by APS as calling the attack a “criminal and cowardly act.”

Speaking to state television Belkhadem, who was not harmed, described the blast as a terrorist attack.

Dozens of ambulances converged on the upscale residential neighborhood as thousands of people poured on to the streets and survivors were led from the building.

Medics carried the bloodied and burned victims in their arms and on stretchers from the government palace.

“I am horrified and indignant after the attacks which have just struck Algiers,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a statement.

“I convey my sincerest condolences to the victims’ families and assure the Algerian authorities of our full solidarity in their fight against terrorism.” France ruled Algeria before independence in 1962.

One Algerian analyst said the operation appeared to be a reply to stepped-up attacks by the army on Islamist insurgents in the Bejaia region in mountains east of Algiers.

“This is a violent reaction to the Bejaia operation where important leaders of al Qaeda in the Maghreb are surrounded,” said security expert Anis Rahmani.

“Since they joined al Qaeda the rebels are clearly opting for symbolic and noisy targets such as the government palace, which is in a way our World Trade Center,” said Boudjema, who edits the newspaper Liberte.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed, Lamine Ghanmi, Tom Pfeiffer, Zakia Abdennebi, and Inal Ersan in Dubai)

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