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Algerian Marketplace Bombing Kills At Least 35

BY Admin  July 5, 2002 at 5:42 PM EDT

The first bomb exploded at 9:15 am in an open-air market in the town of Larbaa, about 15 miles southeast of the North African nation’s capital city, Algiers.

Reuters quoted security sources as saying the bomb was concealed in a pile of garbage bags near the entrance to the market. It exploded when the market was crowded with shoppers and farmers, becoming Algeria’s deadliest attack on civilians this year.

Approximately four hours later, a second bomb exploded on a beach near the Sidi Frej area, just outside Algiers. Security forces said two bathers were injured in the blast.

Algerie Press Service, the official news agency, also reported that a third bomb exploded in eastern Algeria during a ceremony to honor war veterans, killing at least one person.

No organization has claimed responsibility for the attacks but the Algerian government suspects Islamic rebels who have been blamed for similar violence in the past.

The bombings come three days after Lt. Gen. Mohamed Lamari, the army chief of staff, said the government had succeeded in ridding the region of Islamic guerillas.

The Larbaa area has long been associated with the radical Armed Islamic Group, or GIA, which has reportedly carried out several attacks on civilians. The GIA and the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, another radical group, have led a 10-year revolt by radical Muslims to overthrow Algeria’s military-backed government.

While in an Algiers hospital visiting victims of today’s bombing, Junior Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said, “You see what these assassins did! These hideous brutes were murdering on July 5, a symbol for us.”

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika did not change his schedule in reaction to the attacks, flying to the coastal city of Annaba to attend the country’s soccer final.

Authorities have tightened security around Algiers in anticipation of the country’s independence day, marking their freedom from French colonial rule after a fierce seven-year war.

An estimated 120,000 people have been killed in Algeria since the 1992 cancellation of a legislative election that Muslim fundamentalists were expected to win.

Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, the Algerian government has detained dozens of Islamic extremists with suspected connections to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, garnering praise from U.S. officials for their work in fighting terrorism.