Bomb Blast Kills 9, Wounds 100
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ A powerful bomb exploded today at the Algiers airport, killing nine people and wounding more than 100, Premier Belaid Abdessalam said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, or a second explosion that occured minutes later in downtown Algiers and caused no casualties. Armed Muslim groups have been waging an insurgency against the government all year.
The deadly bomb blew out windows and destroyed the Air France counter at Houari Boumedienne Airport, airline employees said. It apparently had been hidden in a flowerpot, they said.
Initial reports from Interior Minister Mohammed Hardi had said 10 people were killed, and there was no immediate explanation for the later figure of nine given by Abdessalam.
Children were among the dead and wounded, according to witnesses, but no other information on the victims was immediately available. Taxis and ambulances ferried the wounded to hospitals in Algiers.
The airport was closed after the blast, and armed guards were posted throughout the international terminal.
Screaming passengers fled the terminal after the explosion, witnesses said. Weeping children clung to their parents as they sought refuge in the parking lot.
The force of the blast was so powerful that one victim’s body was stuck to the terminal ceiling, witnesses said. Emergency workers used brooms to sweep scattered body parts into plastic sacks.
The second bomb went off at the Air France office in downtown Algiers, Hardi said. Security personnel had evacuated people about three minutes earlier, indicating there had been some kind of warning.
There were no injuries in the second blast and only minor damage to the airline office, Air France officials said.
An Air France spokesman in Paris said it was not clear why the airline had been the target of the blasts and that contact with the airline’s offices in Algiers had been cut. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not comment further.
A third bomb, planted near the office of Swissair in central Algiers, was defused, Swissair spokesman Hannes Kummer said in Zurich. Initial reports from witnesses had said earlier that the device exploded.
Algeria has been torn by unrest since the government canceled January’s national elections after it was clear that fundamentalist parties had a commanding lead. The army later took control of the government, outlawed the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front and arrested thousands of party faithful.
Many Muslim activists fled to the countryside, where they have been leading an insurgency against the government.
Hardi condemned the attacks. ″It is not acceptable for a minority to impose its will on the majority through such terrorist acts, or try to force the government to make concessions,″ he said.
He blamed ″certain politicians, notably those who have contributed to the destruction of our country, who want to return to power at any price ... who encourage by their declarations this type of terrorist act, giving the illusion to those who carry out such acts that if they increase the pressure, the powers will give in.″
He was apparently refering to leaders of the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front, who were sentenced last month to up to 12 years in jail for sedition and advocating holy war against the government.
Since the government canceled the elections, more than 130 police and soldiers have been killed in attacks by armed Muslim bands.
The army has arrested thousands of fundamentalists.
Mohamed Boudiaf, president of the ruling committee, was assassinated on June 29. Authorities arrested a member of the presidential guard and said he had confessed to the killing out of Muslim convictions, but it was not clear whether fundamentalists were behind the attack.
Algeria is a former French colony of 27 million people.