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Al-Qaida Claims Deadly Algiers Blasts
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Bombs killed at least 23 people in Algeria's capital Wednesday, attacks claimed by Al-Qaida that raised fears the north African oil exporter was slipping back into the intense political violence of the 1990s.

One of the blasts, believed to be a suicide bombing, ripped part of the facade off the prime minister's headquarters in the center of Algiers. A second bomb hit Bab Ezzouar on its eastern outskirts, the official APS news agency said.

The Al-Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the bombings in Algeria and attacks in Morocco, Al Jazeera television reported.

In a statement posted on the Internet, the group published pictures of what it said were three "martyrs" who carried out the attacks.

The claim could not be immediately verified but the group, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), has taken responsibility for a number of deadly attacks on security forces and foreigners in Algeria since January.

At least 23 people were killed and 162 others wounded in two bomb blasts, the official APS news agency reported.

Algeria descended into violence in 1992 after the then military-backed authorities scrapped a parliamentary election, which an Islamist political party was set to win. Up to 200,000 people were killed in the ensuing bloodshed.

That violence subsided in recent years following amnesties for insurgents, but rumbles on in mountains east of Algiers.

The blast at the prime minister's headquarters gouged a gaping hole in the six-storey building, shattering windows and showering rubble on to cars for blocks around.

Police sources said the attack was a suicide bombing.

One Algerian analyst said the operation appeared to be a reply to stepped-up attacks by the army on Islamist insurgents in the Bejaia region in mountains east of Algiers.

(China Daily via agencies April 12, 2007)

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