ALGIERS, Algeria – Two truck bombs set off in quick succession sheared off the fronts of U.N. offices and a government building in Algeria’s capital Tuesday, killing at least 26 people and wounding nearly 200 in an attack claimed by an affiliate of al-Qaida.
Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, in a posting on a militant Web site, called the U.N. offices “the headquarters of the international infidels’ den.” A U.N. official said at least 11 of its employees died.
The bombs exploded 10 minutes apart around 9:30 a.m., devastating the U.N. refugee agency and other U.N. offices along a street in the upscale Hydra neighborhood, as well as Algeria’s Constitutional Council, which rules on the constitutionality of laws and oversees elections.
The targeting of U.N. offices was a new development in the 15-year war between Algeria’s secular government and Islamic insurgents, who previously focused their hate on symbols of the military-backed administration and civilians.
Al-Qaida’s self-styled North African branch’s Web posting said two suicide bombers attacked the buildings with trucks carrying 1,760 pounds of explosives each.
Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni said the Algerian government was “certain” that al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa – formerly known as the Salafist Group for Call and Combat – “was behind the attack.”
Al-Qaida has struck on the 11th in several countries, including the Sept. 11, 2001, attack in the U.S. Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa claimed responsibility for attacks last April 11 that hit the Algerian prime minister’s office and a police station, killing 33 people.
An Interior Ministry statement said the attacks killed 26 people, but other sources said the toll was higher. An official at the civil protection agency who spoke on condition of anonymity said 45 people were killed. A doctor at a hospital who said he was in contact with staff at other hospitals put the death toll at a minimum of 60.