/ 3 January 2008

Death toll from Algerian violence jumps in December

The death toll from political violence in Algeria jumped to 56 in December from six in the previous month, bringing to 491 the number of those killed in 2007, according to a Reuters count based on newspaper reports.

A total of 37 people, including 17 United Nations staff, were killed in a double suicide bombing in the capital, Algiers, on December 11.

Al-Qaeda’s North African wing claimed responsibility for that attack, which hit United Nations offices and a court building, saying it had targeted ”the slaves of America and France”.

Six members of government forces were killed and eight others wounded in other separate clashes with rebel groups, who lost 13 of their members in December.

Algeria is emerging from more than a decade of conflict that began when the military-backed government scrapped 1992 legislative elections a radical Islamic party was poised to win.

Authorities had feared an Iranian style revolution. Up to 200 000 people have been killed during the ensuing violence.

The bloodshed has subsided in recent years and last year the government freed more than 2 000 former Islamist guerrillas under an amnesty designed to put an end to the conflict.

But clashes continued in the eastern provinces, the scene of a counter-offensive by security forces against Maghreb al-Qaeda after a failed assassination attempt on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in September. — Reuters