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Algeria angered by US terror alert

London Independent | April 16, 2007
Hassane Meftahi

Algeria's Foreign Ministry scolded the US Embassy yesterday, saying its warning a day earlier of possible terror attacks in the capital was "irresponsible," the official APS news agency reported.

The US warning, repeated on television stations on Saturday, reportedly spread fear among Algerians, still stunned by double suicide bombings Wednesday on the prime minister's office and a police station.

Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni, meanwhile, lowered the death toll from 33 to 30 in the coordinated attacks and said that 37 people remained hospitalized. Security forces have identified the last two of three suicide bombers, he told reporters, saying they were Algerians, like the first, but did not immediately provide their names.

The US Embassy warned of possible new attacks on Saturday and named potential targets - near the Algiers central post office and ENTV national television headquarters - but did not cite a source for its information.

Algerian authorities summoned the No. 2 official at the embassy, Thomas F. Daughton, to advise the US mission of its "obligation to scrupulously respect the sovereignty" of Algeria and of "the principle of noninterference in its internal affairs," APS reported, citing the Foreign Ministry.

It was not immediately clear whether the strong reaction would have repercussions in the two countries' common battle in the war on terrorism. Algeria is a valuable US ally in the international effort to defeat al-Qaida.

Such "tempestuous initiatives of this type are counterproductive and irresponsible given the demands of cooperation in the fight against terrorism," APS quoted authorities as admonishing the United States.

US Embassy spokesman Matt Goshko said there was no immediate comment on the Algerian reaction.

The Algerian media criticized the warning, with the daily El Watan calling it "indecent" and suggesting that US Ambassador Robert Stephen Ford be expelled.

Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa claimed responsibility for the attacks. The group, formerly called the GSPC, was built on the foundations of an Algerian insurgency movement that fought to topple the nation's secular government in the 1990s.

Authorities had already identified one of the bombers. The Arabic-language newspaper El Khebar reported Saturday that the man who drove a vehicle loaded with explosives into the prime minister's office was Merouane Boudina, 23, one of 10 brothers and sisters from a poor neighborhood in southern Algiers. Both El Khebar and the French-language daily Liberte said he had been in and out of jail for drug trafficking.

The Interior Ministry's announcement coincided with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's first public appearance since the bombings during which he inaugurated several buildings, including a new courthouse.

Bouteflika, who has largely devoted his presidency to ending the insurgency, has not yet spoken publicly about Wednesday's bombings.

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