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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 23:36 GMT 00:36 UK
Bombs shatter Algerian celebrations
Debris from the explosion
The bombers chose a busy market day
A bomb reportedly killed 35 people in a market near the Algerian capital as the country was marking Independence Day.

Algerian state radio said 80 people were also injured in the blast in Larba, 25 kilometres (16 miles) south of Algiers - one of four to hit Algeria on Friday.

It was market day and many of the dead were said to be farmers' sons in town for the bustling weekend trade.

Islamic extremists are being blamed for the attacks on the 40th anniversary of Algeria's independence from France.

No-one was killed in the other three explosions, which wounded four soldiers and two civilians.

BBC Middle East correspondent Paul Wood said the explosion in Larba was timed to cause maximum casualties.

It was the heaviest loss of life in a bomb attack in Algeria in two years.

'Abandoned'

An eyewitness spoke of seeing 15 bodies piled together in a deep crater.

The explosives had been placed in the mouth of a sewer, covered by refuse sacks.


We need weapons to defend ourselves

Fadi Abdelahak
shopkeeper
The victims are believed to include two citizens of Niger who were shopping at the market. Local people said the security forces had failed to protect them.

"We have been abandoned to fend for ourselves," said Fadi Abdelahak, a 57-year-old shopkeeper.

"We need weapons to defend ourselves."

Militant campaign

The other attacks on Friday targeted a cemetery, a beach and an army patrol.

No group has admitted carrying out the attacks but the military-led government put the blame on Islamic militants.

Larba is inside the so-called "triangle of death" between Algiers and the garrison town of Blida, 25 km away, where hundreds of civilians have been killed in attacks in the past 10 years.

Bomb crater in Larba
The blast made a deep crater
It is believed the police have been working on an intelligence tip-off about renewed activity by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

Our correspondent says the GIA is being blamed for this attack, although confirmation is hard to come by.

In the past, the security forces themselves have been accused of carrying out some killings blamed on Islamic rebels.

Before Friday's market-place bombing, at least 40 people had been killed in violence blamed on extremists in the past two weeks.

In the past decade, at least 100,000 people have died in Algeria's civil war.

Algeria has been plagued with violence since in 1992 when the military halted a general election which the Islamic Salvation Front - a fundamentalist party - was poised to win.

Lost prestige

The country's economy is in tatters and strict security measures in the face of the violent Islamist rebel campaign are a fact of everyday life.

Algeria's population has soared since independence, adding to its political and economic problems.

It has been unable to attract foreign investment and unemployment is officially running at about 30%, with the young worst affected.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Michael Voss
"The fundamentalists are believed to have strong links to Al-Qaeda"
Saad Djebbar, Royal Int. of International Affairs
"Who is the beneficiary of this attack?"
See also:

05 Jun 02 | Middle East
30 May 02 | Middle East
11 Jan 02 | Middle East
01 Nov 00 | Middle East
13 Jan 00 | Middle East
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