Violence in the Maghreb Al-Qaida Claims Responsibility for Algeria Attacks

The northern African arm of Al-Qaida is claiming responsibility for Wednesday's terror attacks in Algeria that left 24 dead and 160 injured. Meanwhile, police are continuing to search for members of a terror cell in Casablanca one day after a raid in the Moroccan city led to the death of four militants and one police officer.


Al Qaida in the Islamic West is claiming on the Internet that these three men used a total of 1,900 kilograms of explosives during suicide attacks in Algeria on Wednesday.

Al Qaida in the Islamic West is claiming on the Internet that these three men used a total of 1,900 kilograms of explosives during suicide attacks in Algeria on Wednesday.

The northern African arm of al-Qaida is claiming responsibility for the bombing attacks in Algeria on Wednesday that have left 24 dead and more than 160 injured.

A statement attributed to Al-Qaida in the Islamic West, as the group refers to itself, appeared on Wednesday afternoon on a jihadist Web site that has been used by almost all Islamic terrorist organizations during the past year to post their messages. Referring to the attack, an online statement uncovered by SPIEGEL ONLINE claims: "The gates to paradise have been opened."

According to the statement three suicide attackers were involved in the bombing, though news agencies have thus far put that figure at two. Al-Qaida in the Islamic West also describes its targets: The seat of the Algerian government, Interpol's headquarters in Algeria and a building belonging to the security forces. The names of the apparent bombers are provided as well as their photos.

Although the authenticity of the statement could not be independently corroborated, the group has taken responsibility for a number of attacks on security forces and foreigners since the beginning of the year and Reuters is reporting that a spokesman for al-Qaida in the Islamic West has taken credit for the bombing in a telephone call to the Arab satellite news channel Al-Jazeera.

Terrorism expert Guido Steinberg of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) told SPIEGEL ONLINE that there is little doubt that the North African branch of al-Qaida was responsible. "It is hardly imaginable that any other group could be behind it."

The Algerian capital Algiers was rocked by an explosion near the prime minister's headquarters Wednesday.
REUTERS

The Algerian capital Algiers was rocked by an explosion near the prime minister's headquarters Wednesday.

In Algeria on Wednesday, a large explosion near the prime minister's office rocked Algiers, the capital. The blast hit government buildings that house the prime minister and interior minister's offices in Algiers. Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem called the attack "a cowardly, criminal terrorist act."

Algeria has been fighting an insurgency ever since the army cancelled elections in 1992 which an Islamic party was predicted to win. The violence has left an estimated 200,000 dead, though large-scale violence had died down since the 1990s. However, the number of attacks has been on the increase again ever since the main guerrilla group -- the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat -- deepened its ties with al-Qaida in January of this year.

Investigation continues in Morocco

Meanwhile, police in Morocco are continuing their search for Islamic extremists a day after a police raid on suspected militants left five men dead in Casablanca, Morocco's biggest city.

The series of events throughout the city was triggered by a police raid Tuesday during which one militant was shot dead and another blew himself up. By the end of the day two other suspects had detonated themselves with explosives, and a policeman had also been killed.

Several hundred police officers took part in the dawn raid in the poor Fida district of Casablanca on Tuesday. The police, who were acting on a tip-off, surrounded the building. One man fled to the roof where he blew himself up, while another suspect, who was wearing explosives, was shot dead by a sniper.

Later that afternoon a man died when he blew himself up as he jumped from a balcony -- the blast killed a policeman and injured another man. A fourth suspect blew himself up late Tuesday evening, injuring eight people.

The members of the terror cell are thought to always wear explosives which they can detonate if the police try to arrest them. Moroccan authorities have been on high alert for weeks following tip offs from foreign intelligence agencies about the likelihood of more attacks.

Police investigate the body of one of the terror suspects who blew himself up in Casablanca, hours after a police raid.
AFP

Police investigate the body of one of the terror suspects who blew himself up in Casablanca, hours after a police raid.

The man the police shot dead, Mohamed Mentala, was wanted in connection with a series of suicide attacks on tourist and Jewish targets that killed 45 people in Morocco in 2003. The other three men are reported to have links to Abdelfettah Raydi, the man who blew himself up last month in an Internet café in the city in an attack which injured four people. His brother Ayyoub Raydi was one of the men who died Tuesday.

Although there was no apparent connection between the events in Morocco and Algeria, they illustrate how North African countries are struggling to deal with Islamic extremists.

Steinberg is convinced that there is a new organized Jihadist scene in North Africa. "One has to expect further attacks in the region," he said.

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