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Suicide Attack in Algeria Kills Dozens


Algeria's Interior Ministry says a suicide car bombing in front of a police school near Algiers has killed more than 40 people and injured dozens more. Ricci Shryock has more from our West Africa regional bureau in Dakar.

Young Algerians were waiting in line to register at the local police academy when a suicide car bomb exploded Tuesday morning.

According to witnesses, the front of the academy's building was blown away, surrounding trees were torn apart and windows were shattered in nearby stores.

The attack occurred in the Les Issers district of Boumerds, more than 50 kilometers east of the country's capital.

This is the third suicide bombing attack this month in Algeria.

Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack, London-based David Hartwell, the North Africa editor for Jane's Country Risk, says attacks by the al-Qaida north African branch are on the rise.

"That group has become much more active in the last two years," he said. "The number of attacks have increased, although this is from quite a low base. The attacks have become much more spectacular. The attacks have become much more targeted against institutions of the Algerian state."

Hartwell says the roots of al-Qaida in Algeria stem from the country's recent civil war between the military and Islamic radicals. He says Algeria's type of terrorism is a matter of radical Sunnis trying to overthrow a moderate Islamic state, and not attacks against foreign interests.

"I think primarily the attacks should be seen through the lens of the civil war experience of the attack on the Algerian state," he added. "Firstly, if the terrorists really wanted to attack the west, then the way that they would do that is by attacking the oil and gas infrastructure."

Many of the attacks in the past two years have occurred at government buildings, such as last year's al-Qaida-linked suicide bomb attack outside a coast guard barracks that killed 37 people, according to news reports.

Hartwell adds regional influences give the terrorists within Algeria support.

"What you have is a situation where you have an already established terrorist network with, with tentacles already within society, already within Algeria, which has been able to replenish itself through smuggling and trafficking and organized crime networks through the Sahara," he said.

The Algerian civil war, between Islamist rebel groups and the Algerian government began in 1991 and officially ended in 2002. After the war, parts of one of the rebel groups, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, aligned itself with al-Qaida.

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