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Bomb Injures 34 in Algeria Capital

August 29, 2001

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ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ A bomb exploded Wednesday in the heart of Algiers, injuring 34 people, five seriously, in the first attack in the capital in more than two years, security forces said.

No one was killed in the blast, which went off on a street near the capital’s ancient Casbah, witnesses said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The bomb was hidden in a plastic bag. The street where the blast occurred, a main artery on the edge of the Casbah and the Bab el-Oued neighborhood, was strewn with clothing and debris.

The area, once considered a stronghold for Islamic fundamentalists, was the site of numerous bombings in the 1990s, when an Islamic insurgency aimed at toppling the military government was at its height. A bombing in August 1998 killed 17 people in the same neighborhood.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the insurgency started in 1992, after the army canceled legislative elections that a fundamentalist party was likely to win.

Wednesday’s blast raised fears that the violence would be reignited in Algiers. It is now concentrated in western and eastern Algeria.

Over the past few weeks, the Algerian press has reported that the two leading Muslim extremist groups _ the Armed Islamic Group and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat _ have infiltrated Algiers to carry out attacks aimed at underscoring their refusal to lay down arms.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika launched a program of partial amnesty for insurgents who turned themselves in by Jan. 13, 2000.

While thousands of insurgents are reported to have taken advantage of the amnesty plan, many others continue waging the insurgency, which has defied military and political offensives.

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