A deadly double bombing near Algiers sparked fears Monday of a wave of Al-Qaeda inspired attacks in what France's foreign minister said had become a "dangerous" country. (Report: A. Tazir, T. Mettallaoui)
The employer of a French engineer who was killed in the attack withdrew his company's other expatriate staff from Algeria after blasts which local officials said killed 13 people, though the government gave a drastically lower toll of two.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner appealed for foreign firms to stay in Algeria even though he acknowledged in a radio interview that it had become a "dangerous country".
A car carrying the engineer, Pierre Nowacki, 57, hit a remote controlled roadside bomb as it left the railway tunnel where he was working in Lakhdaria, east of the capital on Sunday afternoon. His driver was also killed.
Nowacki was the first French person killed in an Islamic extremist attack since 1994. Attacks in Algeria in 1993 and 1994 left 71 people dead, including 22 French nationals.
A second blast occurred 30 minutes later as rescuers helped the victims at the scene. Local security sources said three paramedics and eight members of the security forces were killed in this blast, but the government denied this.
"The attack killed two people, a French national and his Algerian driver who was working for a French public works company," said a defence ministry statement on Monday. "The toll given by some media is baseless."
"We have just decided that the three other French nationals who work at the site should get the plane back to Paris today," Jean-Marie Sifre, a Paris spokesman for engineering firm Razel, told AFP.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned the "barbaric violence" in a message of solidarity to Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika late Sunday.
Kouchner said: "This is a country where we have to work, where the commercial and friendship links are very strong and must be developed," speaking in an interview with RTL radio.
But he added that foreigners in Algeria must be "prudent".
French anti-terrorist investigators on Monday opened a probe for murder and criminal conspiracy in relation with a terrorist enterprise following the French national's death, a judicial official said.
Sunday's attack has not been claimed but similar strikes have been claimed by Al-Qaeda's offshoot in North Africa. There have been five bomb attacks in as many days around Algiers and the Kabylie region, an Islamist stronghold.
The Spanish government on Monday condemned the recent spate of attacks, while also saying it would support Algeria in targeting extremists.
"The Spanish government strongly condemns the recent attacks and in particular that carried out on June 8," said a statement from the foreign ministry.
Madrid "renews its support of Algeria in the fight against terrorism", said the statement.
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 blamed on Islamic militants.
On Saturday, security forces killed one militant and wounded two others in an ambush near Boumerdes, said security sources.
"I am worried by this strengthening of terrorism, despite the big security deployment around Algiers," said one man, a senior telecoms technician in the country.
Date created : 2008-06-10