/ 9 June 2008

Algeria bombs kill 12

Two bombs exploded on Sunday at a railway station east of Algiers, killing 12 people including a French engineer, diplomats and security sources said.

It was the first time since the 1990s that a French citizen has been killed in political violence in Algeria, where al-Qaeda-aligned rebels have carried out a string of deadly bombings in the past two years.

Sunday’s attack was the third deadly strike in five days.

The bombs went off at close intervals in the town of Beni Amrane in Boumerdes province, about 50km from the capital, the sources said.

Eight soldiers accompanying the Frenchman working for French water engineering company Razel, two firemen and an unidentified man also died when their convoy hit the bombs planted next to the station, according to one security source.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Three employees of the same French company were injured last September in a suicide car bomb attack claimed by al-Qaeda’s North African wing, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Several French firms working in Algeria sent home employees’ families last year when al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al Zawahri, called for the group’s supporters in North Africa to ”cleanse” their land of Spaniards and French.

Up to 200 000 people have been killed in the oil and gas exporting country since 1992 after military-backed authorities scrapped parliamentary elections that an Islamist party was poised to win.

The violence has subsided in recent years but some bloodshed continues, mainly in regions east of the capital.

Six soldiers were killed in the same province on Thursday when their convoy hit a bomb planted by rebels. A day earlier, bombs killed two people near a military barracks in Bordj El Kiffan, about 25km east of Algiers.

Maghreb al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a twin attack on a court building and United Nations offices in Algiers in December in which 41 people were killed. – Reuters 2008