Fri, Apr 13, 2007 - Page 6 News List

No change in poll date: Algerian PM

PROVOCATION Abdelaziz Belkhadem said the bombings were meant to terrorize the public ahead of May 17 national polls, while world leaders condemned the killings

AFP , ALGIERS

Algeria's prime minister vowed that national elections would go ahead next month despite suicide bombing attacks claimed by al-Qaeda killed 24 people and wounded 222 others in the capital.

"The objective was a media provocation shortly before the election," scheduled for May 17, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem told al-Arabiya TV late on Wednesday.

"Those who resort to violence exclude themselves from the political process and elections form part of that political process," he said.

The bombings, which followed closely after suicide blasts in neighboring Morocco, were claimed by al-Qaeda's branch in North Africa, which published photographs of what it said were the three Algiers suicide bombers in an Internet statement.

The statement on a Web site often used by the al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden said the car bombings killed at least 53 people.

The first of Wednesday's attacks was carried out by a bomber who drove an explosives-laden car into a guard post outside the government headquarters in central Algiers, police said.

At least 12 people were killed and 135 injured, the civil defense department said. Minutes later, bombers driving two cars triggered explosions in the eastern suburb of Bab Ezzouar, on the road to the international airport and not far from one of Algeria's largest universities.

Another 12 people were killed and 87 wounded in the blasts that demolished an electricity substation and badly damaged a police station, the civil defense department said.

The attackers were seeking to "terrorize the people" of Algeria, Belkhadem said. "But they know that the Algerian people do not accept their approach and their style, as they reject violence and terrorism."

World leaders reacted with horror to the bombings.

French President Jacques Chirac condemned what he called the "terrible attacks" in a message of solidarity to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The Arab League condemned "these terrorist acts and what they represent and aim to achieve."

Both the White House and the US State Department condemned the attacks.

"These horrific acts indiscriminately killed members of the security services and civilians alike," US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The Iranian government called the attacks "inhuman and hideous."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Brussels described the bombing as "odious and cowardly acts," while Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed "sorrow and indignation."

The blast at the government headquarters, which houses the prime minister's office and other ministries, wrecked the facade of the eight-story complex.

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