Algeria beefs up security


Summary

At least 33 people have been killed in the attacks.

Amid fears of a resurgent Al-Qaeda front in North Africa, Interior Minister Nouredine Zerhouni said extra security forces would be put on the streets.

But he warned that it could take "years" to capture the head of the Al-Qaeda group that claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attacks on the government headquarters and a police station on the main road to Algiers airport.

Those attacks came only a day after three suicide bombers blew themselves up and a fourth was killed by police in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. Moroccan officials said they did not believe the incidents were related.

Speaking on a tour of hospitals which were treating victims, Zerhouni said security precautions were "correct" but added that "the number of gendarmes and police in our cities will be increased".

The minister did not give numbers but said the extra security measures were agreed at a crisis cabinet meeting held late Wednesday by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The Algiers bombings were claimed by Al-Qaeda's branch in North Africa, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which published photographs of what it said were the three bombers on the Internet.

"Whatever the name of the group, Al-Qaeda or GSPC, it doesn't matter," commented the minister.

"The attacks signify that it is one of the last acts of people who do not want the state to function normally."

Zerhouni said the "neutralisation" of Abdelamalek Droukdel, head of the former GSPC, "who was responsible for this operation may take weeks or years … and it will depend on our ability to remain vigilant because the Algerian people are used to peace."

The minister highlighted that operations by the army and security services in recent months had "put out of action a few hundred people active in terrorism, who have been killed, imprisoned or have given themselves up."

Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem insisted earlier that national elections scheduled for May 17 would go ahead despite the attacks.

While the death toll increased from 24 to 33, of the more than 220 people injured in the explosions, Zerhouni said 57 remained hospitalised, some in a serious condition.

Friends and relatives searched the morgues for missing loved ones, while others laid their dead to rest at the Sidi Abdallah cemetery outside Algiers.

The brother of one of the victims, 45-year-old civil servant Mohammed Roukhi, said: "It's not fair. I'm stunned by what has happened to my country. No man can accept that a human being can kill another human being".

Algerian newspapers compared the bombings to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and the Madrid train bombings in 2004.

"New York had September 11, Madrid had March 11 and it was Algeria's turn on April 11 to witness the murderous madness of the suicide bombers," said the French-language Le Jeune Independant.

Terrorism experts warned that the attacks might signal a wider resurgence of Islamist militancy in the region that could spread to Tunisia, Libya and to countries further south.

"We now have a belt which extends from Morocco to Somalia," said Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism specialist at the Swedish National Defence College.

"The key question is: are they going to internationalise that even further, with action in France for example … or actions in Spain by Moroccans?" Ranstorp said.

At least 33 people, including about 15 Algerian security forces, have been killed in clashes with Islamist militants this month alone.


At least 33 people have been killed in the attacks.

Amid fears of a resurgent Al-Qaeda front in North Africa, Interior Minister Nouredine Zerhouni said extra security forces would be put on the streets.

But he warned that it could take "years" to capture the head of the Al-Qaeda group that claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attacks on the government headquarters and a police station on the main road to Algiers airport.

Those attacks came only a day after three suicide bombers blew themselves up and a fourth was killed by police in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. Moroccan officials said they did not believe the incidents were related.

Speaking on a tour of hospitals which were treating victims, Zerhouni said security precautions were "correct" but added that "the number of gendarmes and police in our cities will be increased".

The minister did not give numbers but said the extra security measures were agreed at a crisis cabinet meeting held late Wednesday by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The Algiers bombings were claimed by Al-Qaeda's branch in North Africa, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which published photographs of what it said were the three bombers on the Internet.

"Whatever the name of the group, Al-Qaeda or GSPC, it doesn't matter," commented the minister.

"The attacks signify that it is one of the last acts of people who do not want the state to function normally."

Zerhouni said the "neutralisation" of Abdelamalek Droukdel, head of the former GSPC, "who was responsible for this operation may take weeks or years … and it will depend on our ability to remain vigilant because the Algerian people are used to peace."

The minister highlighted that operations by the army and security services in recent months had "put out of action a few hundred people active in terrorism, who have been killed, imprisoned or have given themselves up."

Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem insisted earlier that national elections scheduled for May 17 would go ahead despite the attacks.

While the death toll increased from 24 to 33, of the more than 220 people injured in the explosions, Zerhouni said 57 remained hospitalised, some in a serious condition.

Friends and relatives searched the morgues for missing loved ones, while others laid their dead to rest at the Sidi Abdallah cemetery outside Algiers.

The brother of one of the victims, 45-year-old civil servant Mohammed Roukhi, said: "It's not fair. I'm stunned by what has happened to my country. No man can accept that a human being can kill another human being".

Algerian newspapers compared the bombings to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and the Madrid train bombings in 2004.

"New York had September 11, Madrid had March 11 and it was Algeria's turn on April 11 to witness the murderous madness of the suicide bombers," said the French-language Le Jeune Independant.

Terrorism experts warned that the attacks might signal a wider resurgence of Islamist militancy in the region that could spread to Tunisia, Libya and to countries further south.

"We now have a belt which extends from Morocco to Somalia," said Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism specialist at the Swedish National Defence College.

"The key question is: are they going to internationalise that even further, with action in France for example … or actions in Spain by Moroccans?" Ranstorp said.

At least 33 people, including about 15 Algerian security forces, have been killed in clashes with Islamist militants this month alone.