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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Is Al-Qaeda For Real? I'm Not Too Sure.

Al-Qaeda’s branch in North Africa has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Algeria that wounded two French people and one Italian, Al-Arabiya television reported.

In an "audio statement" posted on the Internet and received by Al-Arabiya’s office in Algiers, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said one of its militants with the nom de guerre of Othman Abu Jaafar carried out the attack with a car laden with "more than 250 kilograms of explosives."

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

The television 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.

Al-Arabiya 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, 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, thank be to God," the spokesman added.

There were no immediate reports of fatalities in the attack from security sources in Algeria.

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

France said it takes "very seriously" threats from Al-Qaeda against its nationals in North Africa and has stepped up security measures.

"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."

Scores of people have been killed in bomb attacks claimed by Al-Qaeda across Algeria this year.

***THE TIMES

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