Internet Anthropologist Think Tank: France on al-Qaida alert

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    Friday, September 21, 2007

    France on al-Qaida alert

    France on al-Qaida alert after Algeria attack

    ALGIERS — Al-Qaida's branch in North Africa claimed responsibility Friday for a suicide bombing in Algeria that wounded two French people and one Italian, hours after it had threatened French targets in the region.

    In an "audio statement" posted on the Internet and received by Al-Arabiya television's office in Algiers, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said one of its militants carried out the attack with a car laden with "more than 250 kilos of explosives."

    Friday's bombing in Lakhdaria, about 75 kilometers southeast of Algiers, "killed three foreigners" and wounded others, Al-Arabiya quoted the group as claiming.

    But the Algerian interior ministry said in a statement that no-one was killed while nine people suffered injuries which were not life-threatening.

    Al-Arabiya aired part of the audio recording, in which the "press spokesman" of the group said "the heroic martyrdom-seeker Othman Abu Jaafar" rammed a Mazda car into a convoy in which "French crusaders working on building the biggest dam" in the area were travelling.

    The news channel showed a picture of a militant carrying a machinegun, with the inscription "martyrdom-seeker Othman Abu Jaafar" written on it, which accompanied the statement.

    The targeted Frenchmen were escorted by Algerian army and police vehicles at the time, the recording said.

    "The explosion resulted in the destruction of the Toyota vehicle which carried the Frenchmen and the death of those who were in it, thanks be to God," the spokesman added.

    The bombing, which wounded six Algerians in addition to the two French engineers and the Italian, came just hours after al-Qaida called for an offensive against French and Spanish targets in the Maghreb.

    "We take these new threats very seriously," foreign ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux said in Paris. "We have instructed the diplomatic stations concerned to reinforce security."

    France "firmly condemns Friday's terrorist attack", Desagneaux said.

    Two French nationals who worked for the airport management company Aeroports de Paris were sent back from Algeria earlier this week after France received an Algerian intelligence tip-off that they were to be kidnapped by extremists.

    Algerian agents had specific information about "threats of an abduction" targeting the two airport employees from a "terrorist group linked to al-Qaida", said a source.

    Scores have died in bomb attacks claimed by al-Qaida across Algeria this year.

    On Thursday, al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a video message calling for the "cleansing" of French and Spaniards from North Africa as a first step in restoring the Iberian peninsula to the Islamic world.

    European diplomatic sources and witnesses said the Italian and the two French people, who worked for construction firm Razel, were in a car being escorted by police when the explosive-laden vehicle slammed into their convoy.

    It was not immediately known if the suicide bomber died.

    The Italian was the most seriously injured among the casualties, according to diplomats in Algiers.

    A spokesman for Razel, a subsidiary of German multi-service group Bilfinger Berger based outside Paris, said the three foreigners and an injured Algerian driver had been taken to hospital in Algiers and were "out of danger."

    Al-Qaida has stepped up operations in North Africa through its Algerian offshoot, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which has been renamed al-Qaida in the Maghreb.


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