Algerians mourn those killed in bombings

Other News Materials 15 December 2007 04:00 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - Bearded men in flowing white robes prayed and women in Muslim head scarves wiped away tears Friday as Algerians buried victims of twin suicide bombings at U.N. offices and a government building that killed at least 37 people.

Rescue workers ended the search for survivors where the truck bombs blew apart buildings in Algiers on Tuesday, and efforts turned to cleanup and to mourning.

The bombings claimed by a former insurgent group now calling itself al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa sent a chilling reminder that the government's fight against religious extremists is far from over - and becoming increasingly international.

Victims included U.N. staff from around the world as well as police officers, law students and other civilians.

Dozens of Muslim worshippers, many in flowing white robes, turned out Friday for weekly prayers at a mosque before the funeral of one U.N. employee, Mustapha Boubara, who was among the 37 dead listed by the Interior Ministry.

In New York, U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Friday that the number of U.N. workers killed by the attack stood at 17. She said the world body did not know of any others still missing. The U.N. victims, four of them women, included 14 Algerians, a Dane, a Filipino and a Senegalese.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement expressing solidarity with Algerians and condemning the attack.

"I stand with the people of Algeria and the wider region in the face of the scourge of terrorism," Ban said. "This was an attack not only against the United Nations, not only against Algerians, but against humankind itself."

Ban pledged to "spare no effort" to ensure security for U.N. staff around the world.

The bombing was the worst attack on U.N. staffers since an August 2003 bombing at the world body's offices in Baghdad killed the top U.N. envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 others. The attack was blamed on a group that later affiliated with al-Qaida.

An Algerian security official said Tuesday's suicide bombers - a 64-year-old man in the advanced stages of cancer and a 32-year-old man from a poor suburb - were among Islamic militants once held by police, but later freed under an amnesty decreed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's government.

The Islamic insurgency broke out in the early 1990s, when the army canceled the second round of Algeria's first multiparty elections to prevent an expected victory by an Islamic fundamentalist party. Armed groups sought to overthrow the government, and up to 200,000 people have died in the ensuing violence.

Until this year, the insurgency had been dying out, with militants' ranks dwindling after military crackdowns and amnesty offers.