Bombs killed 30 people in Algiers on Wednesday in the first such attacks in Algeria’s capital in years, raising fears of a return to the north African oil exporter’s recent history of political bloodletting.
Residents said it was the first time since the 1990s that a powerful bomb targeted the centre of the Mediterranean city, where police had stepped up security following an upsurge in attacks by suspected Islamist insurgents in the countryside.
One of the blasts ripped part of the facade off the prime minister’s headquarters at the centre of the elegant port city. A second bomb hit Bab Ezzouar on the city’s eastern outskirts, the official APS news agency said.
Hospital sources put the toll from the two bombings at 30. Earlier, the official APS news agency put the toll at 17 dead with 82 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.”
Police sources said the attack on the government building was a suicide bombing.
Algeria plunged into violence in 1992 after the then military-backed authorities scrapped a parliamentary election that 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 several amnesties for insurgents but rumbles on in mountains east of Algiers.
Attacks have also risen since the main guerrilla group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), adopted a new name in January and deepened its ties to al-Qaeda.
The group has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly bombings targeting security forces and foreigners, and Algerian troops and militants have clashed.
No one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attacks.
The blast at the prime minister’s headquarters gouged a gapping hole in the six-storey building, shattering windows and showering rubble onto cars for blocks around.
Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, who was not harmed, was quoted by APS as calling the attack a ”criminal and cowardly act”. Speaking to state television, he described the blast as a terrorist attack.
”At first I thought it was an earthquake,” said lawyer Tahar bin Taleb. ”My wife called me a few moments later crying and shouting. I ran home to find all the mirrors and windows in the house were shattered.”
Dozens of ambulances converged on the upscale residential neighbourhood as thousands of people poured onto 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. – Reuters