ALGIERS, (Reuters) – The family of a suicide bomber who killed 17 U.N. staff in Algiers this week said he joined Islamist rebels after failing to get a taxi licence and was motivated by “ignorance, not poverty”, a newspaper reported.
“We got nothing from al Qaeda, we are still very poor,” Bechla Rabah’s oldest son Younes told Echorouk. “Ignorance, not poverty, this is what pushed my father to blow himself up.”
Al Qaeda’s North African wing claimed responsibility for twin car bombs on Tuesday that killed more than 30 people at the U.N. offices and a court building, saying it had targeted “the slaves of America and France”.
It was the deadliest assault in Algiers in years and followed a string of similar bombings after Islamist rebels in the country adopted the al Qaeda name at the start of the year.
Rabah’s 82-year-old mother told Echorouk she heard of his death from the newspapers and had not seen her son in more than a decade. Rabah, who was 63, joined Islamist rebels in 1995. “The police came to do a DNA analysis. They told me the results will be ready by Saturday. I continue to believe my son is innocent. I need strong evidence to change my mind,” she told the national daily in an interview at the family’s home in Heraoua, a poor village 20 km (12 miles) east of Algiers. “He wanted to work as a taxi driver,” said Rabah’s daughter Asia. “But he did not get the go-ahead from the administration. That’s why he decided to join the FIS in the 1990s.” “I could have been one of the victims,” she added.
Algeria plunged into violence in 1992 after the then military-backed government scrapped legislative elections which the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), a radical Islamic party, was poised to win.
The violence had subsided since the 1990s but in the past twelve months has regained some of its former intensity.
Algerian officials say poverty does not produce terrorism, but local commentators often point to a bleak social background of poverty and unemployment to explain the rebels’ ability to recruit suicide bombers.