ALGIERS, (Reuters) – A car bomb exploded at the prime minister’s headquarters in central Algiers on Wednesday, killing seven people and raining debris and broken glass over several blocks, police sources said.
Dozens of ambulances converged on the upscale residential neighbourhood in the centre of the Algerian capital as thousands of people poured onto the streets and survivors were led from the building.
Police sources said seven people were killed in the attack. “At first I thought it was an earthquake,” said lawyer Tahar bin Taleb. “My wife called me a few moments later crying and shouting. I ran home to find all the mirrors and windows in the house were shattered.”
Some witnesses reported hearing multiple explosions but that could not be confirmed.
Witnesses told Reuters the explosion was a car bomb, possibly located in a parking facility below the building. Police at the scene declined to comment.
The blast gouged a gapping hole in the six-story government building that housed the headquarters of Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, shattering windows and showering rubble into cars for blocks around.
Wednesday’s attack was the first major bombing in central Algiers in several years.
Violence in Algeria has been on the rise since the main guerrilla group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), adopted a new name in January and deepened its ties to al Qaeda.
The group has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly bombings targeting security forces and foreigners, and Algerian troops and militants have clashed.