Thu, Dec 13, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Workers comb debris in Algiers


Emergency workers searched for bodies and survivors yesterday after twin truck bombings by an affiliate of al-Qaeda targeted UN offices and a government building in Algiers, killing at least 30 people.

Some estimates of the final death toll climbed well above the official Algerian government figures. Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said on France's Europe-1 radio yesterday that the official death toll was 30, up from 26 on Tuesday night, after rescue workers spent the night digging for victims beneath the remains of gutted buildings.

Five or six people remained trapped under the rubble yesterday, according to the Civil Protection agency, the official APS news agency said. At least 11 UN workers, possibly more, were killed, UN officials said.

The attacks -- and their choice to target the UN -- drew swift international condemnation. Algeria has been battling Islamic insurgents for 15 years, but until now they had focused on symbols of Algeria's military-backed government and civilians.

"Algerians are completely united against terrorism," the foreign minister said, insisting that the attacks did not portend "civil war."

Asked about the possibility of attacks elsewhere in North Africa, he said: "It's everyone who is targeted, sooner or later."

UN officials in Geneva said it was the worst single attack against UN staff and facilities since August 2003, when the global body's headquarters in Baghdad were hit by a truck laden with explosives. That attack killed 22 people, including top UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, and was blamed on al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq.

After Tuesday's attack in Algiers, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate review of UN security in Algeria and elsewhere. The UN refugee agency's chief spokesman, Ron Redmond, said the agency's work was continuing yesterday in refugee camps in southern Algeria.

One of the UN victims was Danish and another was a Filipino employee of the World Food Program, Danish and UN officials said.

Terrorists striking the UN headquarters "want to try to chase the international community out," Danish Prime Minister Per Stig Moeller said yesterday.

Families of the missing stood nearby outside police cordons surrounding the sites of the blasts, waiting for news of their relatives. Rescue workers dug into rubble and hoisted chunks out with cranes while maintenance workers swept up soot.

A major Algerian hospital held a blood drive and dozens of people lined up outside in the morning to give blood for those injured in the bombing.

The UN offices are in the upscale Hydra neighborhood of Algiers, which houses many foreign embassies and has a substantial foreign population. The US and British embassies stepped up security warnings. The French embassy said that though violence had largely died down in recent years, "recent attacks show that it is time for a return to the most extreme prudence."

"The renewed threat by al-Qaeda against French interests in North Africa cannot be ignored," the embassy said on its Web site.

Al-Qaeda has called for attacks on French and Spanish interests in North Africa. French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Algeria last week.

Al-Qaeda's self-styled North African branch, in a posting on a militant Web site, said two suicide bombers attacked the buildings on Tuesday with trucks carrying 800kg of explosives each.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top