Huge car bomb kills 13 in centre of capital


A HUGE car bomb exploded in the centre of the Algerian capital yesterday afternoon, killing 13 people and wounding at least 20, several of whom were in a critical condition.

Security forces said the bomb went off at 2.15 p.m. (1.15 p.m. Irish time) near the main university faculty. The authorities have blamed previous bomb attacks on Islamic fundamentalists.

According to a police source around 40 people were wounded in the blast which rocked the area near the end of Algiers's main shopping street, Rue Didouche Mourad, blowing out windows and setting cars and one bus ablaze.

One eyewitness said: "There were an awful lot of wounded. I saw a fireman picking up an arm from the ground."

At least five burnt-out cars and the twisted wreck of the bus could be seen before the area was sealed off, witnesses said.

All the windows in the La Brass cafe, a popular haunt of university students and staff, were shattered, with shards of glass lying deep on the pavement.

Algiers has been the target of numerous bomb attacks blamed by the authorities on Muslim fundamentalists. Two car bombs in Algiers late in December killed at least 18 people.

The authorities feared an upsurge of fundamentalist violence leading up to the religious season of Ramadan, which starts at the weekend.

The latest blast occurred amid a spate of rebel raids on villages in which at least 38 people were killed within a 24-hour period last week.

The violence flared after the Prime Minister, Mr Ahmed Ouyahia, said in a speech that his government had crushed the Islamist guerrillas.

About 60,000 people have been killed in Algeria since early 1992 when the authorities cancelled a general election in which radical Islamists had taken a commanding lead.