Bombing in algeria claimed by new alqaeda branch
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Algerian Bombings Thwart Hopes for Peace
By AIDAN LEWIS 04.12.07, 11:15 PM ET
The scene was unexpected, astonishing: A day after a suicide bomber blasted the walls off the Algerian prime minister's office, workers in hardhats were already cementing bricks into place to patch up the devastation. That car bombing, and two other coordinated attacks at a suburban police station, killed 33 people and dented hopes that Algeria may be closing the book on an Islamic insurgency that peaked in the 1990s.
Even after years of relative peace, some Algerians seemed resigned Thursday, even hardened, to the possibility of a return to violence.
The speedy rebuilding of the prime minister's office was one sign that Algeria had reverted to survival skills learned during the horrors of the deadly insurgency.
Streets were closed off. Police rolled out in force - a once-familiar sight in Algiers, which has come to life again after the dark years when people were afraid to go out at night. Once again Wednesday night, people mostly stayed home.
The next day, people swamped newsstands and gathered in parks to talk about what happened. Hamoud Ouachad, 33, passed the time by watching workers at the premier's office, where a scaffolding surrounded the building.
"We had forgotten what happened," he said, referring to the insurgency. "And now it's starting over. ... We want peace. We don't want this to become a daily occurrence."
In a nearby park, 60-year-old Merouane Fail, out strolling with his brother, said he was "sorry and shocked."
The attackers "are savages, barbarians," he said. Nearby, the sounds of shattering glass rang out as people punched out the remains of windows broken by the bombings.
Fifty-seven people remained hospitalized with injuries Thursday. Western countries reduced embassy services and urged their citizens to avoid traveling on predictable routes.
The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, strongly condemned two "heinous acts of terrorism" in the Algerian capital and called for the perpetrators, organizers and financiers to be brought to justice.
The new al-Qaida wing that claimed responsibility for Wednesday's bombings, al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, was built on the foundations of the Algerian insurgent group that fought to try to topple Algeria's secular government.
The insurgency broke out in 1992, and over the years an estimated 200,000 people - including militants, security forces and civilians - were killed.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has devoted his presidency to ending the insurgency, held an emergency meeting with senior officials. Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem said May 17 legislative elections would go ahead.
"Such criminal acts are meant to plunge Algeria back into the crisis years," Belkhadem said.
Interior Minister Yazid Noureddine Zerhouni blamed the attacks on Abdelmalek Droukdal, leader of Algeria's al-Qaida wing. "Neutralizing him could take several weeks or several years," the minister said.
The new al-Qaida wing posted pictures, names and details about the bombers on an Islamic Web site known as a clearinghouse for extremist groups' material. The site said the man who attacked the prime minister's office, identified as Mouaz bin Jabl, used 1,500 pounds of explosives, a claim that could not immediately be verified.
Until recently, Algeria's peace efforts seemed successful: Military crackdowns and amnesty offers decimated the ranks of militants and left the holdouts isolated in rural hideouts.
No major attack had hit the Algiers region since 2002. Reassured, foreign businesses returned to oil- and gas-rich Algeria, and many foreign workers moved out of hotels and into apartments.
Yet violence has surged again recently, and al-Qaida's North Africa wing has claimed responsibility for several recent attacks on foreigners.
A March 3 bombing of a bus carrying workers for a Russian company killed a Russian engineer and three Algerians. And an Algerian and a Lebanese citizen were killed in a December attack that targeted a bus carrying foreign employees of an affiliate of Halliburton (nyse: HAL - news - people ).
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