A car-bomb attack on a police station killed two people and wounded 23 in a town east of Algiers on Tuesday, the second such bombing in the Opec member in a month, the Interior Ministry said.
Some residents said the blast in Thenia appeared to be a suicide attack, the tactic used in a devastating twin bombing in the capital of the North African country on December 11 that killed at least 41 people including 17 United Nations staff.
El Watan newspaper said police on Monday shot dead a suspected senior member of the rebel group that planned the December 11 attacks and arrested four other members of the group near the village of Corso east of Algiers.
The group had been preparing another suicide bombing in Algiers, the independent French-language daily said. Corso, like Thenia, is in the Boumerdes region on the edge of Kabylie.
The daily said police had seized a truck and explosives. The truck had been bought in Tidjelabine village, where the vehicles used on December 11 were also purchased.
A police spokesperson could not immediately be reached. The police and army rarely comment on newspaper stories.
The bombing on Tuesday in Thenia 55km east of the capital ripped much of the front wall off a three-storey police building and badly damaged nearby shops and a restaurant.
”The explosion happened at 6.25am [5.25am GMT] and thank God it didn’t happen at 8am or we would have been killed without a doubt,” a man who gave his name as Slimane told Reuters. His butchers shop was among the damaged buildings.
On January 2, an explosives laden car was rammed into a police station in Naciria, about 120km east of Algiers, killing four policemen and wounding 20 people.
Al-Qaeda’s North African wing claimed that attack, as well as the December 11 Algiers double bombing.
Police stations in the Algiers region have put up photos of 33 suspected would-be suicide bombers, including a woman, El Watan said.
Algeria is recovering from more than a decade of violence that began in 1992 when the then army-backed government scrapped legislative elections that a radical Islamic party was poised to win. The authorities had feared an Islamic revolution.
Up to 200 000 people are estimated to have been killed.
Violence in the gas-exporting nation has fallen since then, but in the past 12 months it has regained a little of its former intensity, particularly in the mountainous Kabylie region.
Algerian Islamist rebels aligned themselves with al-Qaeda last year and began copying its tactics by carrying out a string of high-profile urban suicide bombings.
The group was previously called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat and had preferred to ambush state security forces from its main bases in the remote forests of Kabylie. – Reuters