ALGIERS (AFP) — A double bomb attack in the town of Lakhdaria, east of Algiers, killed 12 people, including several members of the security forces, a French engineer and his driver, security sources said Sunday.
The car carrying the engineer hit the device as it left the worksite of a French company for which he was working, mortally wounding him.
The other victims, including several members of the civil protection force, were caught in a second blast as they ran to help the engineer and his driver, said the sources.
The engineer was working for a company maintaining the rails near the station of Beni Amrane.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned the attacks in a message of solidarity and condolence to Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika late Sunday.
Sarkozy “condemned unequivocally the blind and barbaric violence that the Algerian people continue to suffer” and offered “unwavering support in the determined struggle against terrorism.”
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner voiced “disgust” over the attack.
“I want to express my feeling of disgust and my absolute condemnation of this blind terrorist violence that nothing can justify,” said a statement issued late Sunday.
Kouchner said his thoughts were with the families and loved ones of the victims, as well as with the people of Algeria and the authorities “who are fighting with courage and determination the scourge of terrorism.
“Their combat is ours,” he added.
This latest attack comes during a spike in violence in the region.
On Wednesday, six people were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a barracks in the eastern suburbs of Algiers. At the same time a bomb went off outside a cafe in the same district, injuring at least one person.
On Thursday, six soldiers were killed and four wounded at Cap Djinet, near Dellys in the Boumerdes region, 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Algiers, in an attack attributed to Islamic militants.
The soldiers were heading back to their barracks when the vehicle in which they were travelling was hit by a roadside bomb.
On Saturday, security forces killed one militant and wounded two others in an ambush at Zaatra, near Boumerdes, said security sources.
It is not the first time that foreign workers have been targeted in attacks.
In December 2007, a double car bomb attack in Algiers against United Nations and government offices killed 41 people, including 17 UN employees.
And two French nationals and an Italian working for the Razel company were wounded in September 2007 when a bomb exploded next to their car. Five Algerian gendarmes were wounded in the same attack.
Both attacks were claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. Formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), they changed their name last year after swearing allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
Earlier Sunday, three Islamist extremists were condemned to death in their absence at a court in Boumerdes.
All three were convicted of “belonging to an armed terrorist group and planting explosives in a public place,” said judicial officials.
Three other defendants were sentenced to seven years.
According to press reports, the Algerian courts have handed down more than 200 death sentences against wanted Islamic extremists on the run since the beginning of the year, although Algeria has suspended executions since 1993.