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Algeria bomb kills 43 at military academy - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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ISSERS, Algeria, (Reuters) – A bomb at an Algerian military academy killed 43 people and wounded 45 on Tuesday, the interior ministry said, one of the bloodiest incidents in years in the OPEC member state.

A ministry statement said the attack targeted the gendarmerie training school at Issers, 55 km (34 miles) east of the capital Algiers. It said 42 of the dead were civilians and one was a gendarme — an armed paramilitary soldier.

The bombing follows several recent attacks by al Qaeda’s north African wing, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The local al Qaeda affiliate has claimed several attacks including the twin suicide bombings of U.N. offices and a court building in Algiers in December 2007 which killed 41 people.

Witnesses said Tuesday’s attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who rammed his car into a group of prospective recruits lining up to get into the school for qualifying exams. “Most of the dead were young men aged between 18 and 20. They were in line waiting to enter the school for recruiting exams when they were mowed down by the blast,” a witness said. “The car explosion destroyed part of the outer wall of the school and blew a huge crater into the ground, about three metres (yards) from the main gate,” he said by telephone.

Many young Algerians see military jobs as the ticket to a better future amid fierce competition for their hearts and minds between the military and radical Islamists, analysts say.

Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb is the most effective rebel group in the country of 34 million, a major oil and gas supplier to Europe which is emerging from more than a decade of conflict with Islamist rebels.

Algerian papers said rebels linked to al Qaeda had killed eight policemen, three soldiers and a civilian in successive ambushes in eastern Algeria on Sunday.

No group made an immediate claim of responsibility.

Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni, who visited the blast site with top security officials, was quoted by official news agency APS as saying: “These terrorist gangs are seeking through attacks against civilians to loosen the net closing around them as the security forces drive them to the wall.” He and other officials have made similar comments before.

The interior ministry said 13 of the wounded were gendarmes, while the others were civilians.

Political analyst Mahmoud Belhimer said, “We should not play down the terrorist menace as the authorities are doing … Tuesday’s attack showed that they are well-entrenched on the ground and seem to be able to hit significant targets.”

Conflict began in Algeria in 1992 when a military-backed government scrapped elections a radical Islamic party was poised to win. About 150,000 people have died in the ensuing violence.

The bloodshed has eased in recent years but a hard core of several hundred rebels fight on as part of al Qaeda’s affiliate, previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

The group’s leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel, told the New York Times last month that increasing numbers of young men around the region were joining the group, frustrated with persistent poverty and angry at what he called the West’s war on Islam.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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