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14 Feb 2007 08:30
A group linked to al-Qaeda staged seven nearly simultaneous attacks targeting police in several towns east of Algiers, killing six and injuring almost 30, according to officials, police and hospital staff.
Al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa—the new name for the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, known by its French abbreviation GSPC—claimed responsibility for the Tuesday morning strikes in a telephone call to the al-Jazeera television network and in a statement circulating on the internet. The group allied itself with al-Qaeda last year, raising the stakes in the region’s fight against terrorism.
The seven bombings, some car explosions, hit the Kabylie region between 4am and 10am GMT on Tuesday morning, the state news agency APS said.
The apparently coordinated attacks surprised the North African country, which has steadily emerged from an Islamic insurgency that killed more than 150Â 000 during the 1990s.
While scattered violence by the GSPC continues, such carefully planned strikes are rare in today’s Algeria, an ally in the United States-led war against terrorism.
The attackers’ statement claimed casualties were much higher and accused the Interior Ministry of playing down the impact.
Tuesday’s attacks 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 in a statement that six people were killed, two of them police officers, according to APS. The ministry also reported 13 injured, and said 10 of them were police.
Police and hospital staff reported more injured, totaling nearly 30.
“I was woken 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 He asked that his last name not be published because he feared for his security. “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 his town had suffered.
“The Islamists have always used this area as a hideout,” Yassine said. “Lately we thought things had calmed down.”
In the Boumerdes district, 40km east of the capital, Algiers, a bomb exploded in the middle of a town, wounding five policemen, APS said. Car bombs struck the centre of another town, and the police station in the town of Boumerdes.
In neighbouring Tizi Ouzou district, 90km east of Algiers, car bombs killed two policemen in one town and a civilian in another, APS said.
In Boumerdes, doctor Said Lamri said by telephone that his hospital was treating 13 wounded. Police said another 16 people were injured in Tizi Ouzou.
Although whittled down to a few hundred members, the GSPC carries out regular bomb attacks in Algeria and raises funds in Europe for al-Qaeda’s operations in Iraq.
In December, the group staged a daring bomb attack on buses carrying foreign workers of an affiliate of US energy services giant Halliburton, killing an Algerian bus driver and wounding nine other people. â€’ Sapa-AP
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