September 8, 2007 / 8:33 AM / 11 years ago

Qaeda N. Africa wing claims Algeria attacks: Jazeera

DELLYS, Algeria (Reuters) - Al Qaeda’s north Africa wing said it was behind two suicide attacks that killed at least 57 people in Algeria in the past two days, Al Jazeera television said on Saturday.

Algerian soldiers stand next to the rubble of the coastguard barracks in Dellys September 8, 2007. A suicide truck bomber destroyed the coastguards barracks in Algeria on Saturday, killing 22 people, residents and hospital sources said, in the second such attack in the OPEC member country in as many days. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

It said al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb said in an Internet statement it was behind Saturday’s suicide truck bombing at a coastguards barracks east of Algiers and an attack in the town of Batna less than 48 hours earlier.

The television station gave no further details.

The suicide truck bomb destroyed the coastguards barracks in Algeria on Saturday, killing 37 people, hospital sources said.

The blast in the port of Dellys 100 km (62 miles) east of Algiers followed the suicide bombing in Batna that killed 20 people in an attack seen by the government as a bid to wreck efforts to end 15 years of political violence.

“I heard a big blast at about 8 this morning and I found out that it targeted the port of the city,” said resident Saeed Hamdaoui, 28. “Then we heard ambulances.”

The interior ministry said the blast was carried out by two attackers who killed themselves in the attack. It was not immediately clear if they were included in the death toll of 30 published by the ministry. It said 47 people were wounded.

North African countries have recently stepped up security coordination to counter armed groups seeking to establish Islamic rule in a region on Europe’s southern flank that depends to a large extent on oil and gas exports and tourism.

Al Qaeda’s No. 2 commander, Egyptian cleric Ayman al-Zawahri, referred to north Africa in a broadcast in July and said the region’s “corrupt” governments should be removed.

Witnesses said the Dellys explosion wrecked the wooden barracks, damaged several neighboring houses and shattered window panes in nearby streets.

Soldiers armed with automatic rifles sealed off the immediate vicinity after the attack.

Authorities called on Algerians to stage rallies for peace throughout the country, Africa’s second biggest, on Sunday.

A Dellys resident, Samir, said: “This is very sad. Young people were killed. I though the situation has improved and that we had almost turned the page of the 1990s. But as you can see the page is not turned yet.”

U.N., FRANCE CONDEMN ATTACK

In New York, France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, current Security Council president, recalled the 15-member body’s sharp criticism of the Batna attack.

“This condemnation must obviously be reiterated with strength, after the new heinous terrorist attack committed today in Dellys,” he said.

Former colonial power France also deplored the attack.

The foreign ministry said France sent “the most sincere condolences to the families of the victims, to those close to them and to the Algerian authorities and the Algerian people, plunged into mourning by this new expression of terrorism.”

Conflict broke out in Algeria in 1992 after military-backed authorities scrapped elections that an Islamist party was set to win. The authorities had feared an Islamic revolution.

Up to 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed.

The bomber in Batna blew himself up among a crowd of people waiting to see President Abdelaziz Bouteflika make a scheduled visit to the town 430 km (270 miles) southeast of Algiers.

It was the first time a suicide attacker in Algeria had detonated a bomb strapped to his body, rather than using a car bomb, Algerians say. The toll of 20 dead includes the bomber.

Bouteflika blamed rebels for the Batna blast, saying they wanted to wreck his policy of national reconciliation.

The policy is aimed at ending 15 years of fighting between the army and groups trying to set up a purist Islamic state.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Political violence has subsided in recent years but a hard core of about 500 mostly al Qaeda-linked rebels continues to fight mainly in the Kabylie region east of the capital Algiers.

The group claimed responsibility for triple suicide bombings in Algiers on April 11 that killed 33 people, and also for a July 11 suicide truck bombing that killed eight soldiers.

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