UPDATE 4-Double car bombing in Algeria kills 11 - agency

Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:14pm BST

(Adds bomb targeted Canadians, more comments, change byline and adds dateline)

By Abdelaziz Boumzar

BOUIRA, Algeria Aug 20 (Reuters) - Two car bombs in Algeria killed at least 11 people on Wednesday, the day after an attack that left 43 dead at a military academy, Algerian press agency APS said quoting the Interior Ministry.

It was the bloodiest week in nearly a year in the OPEC member state, a major oil and gas supplier to Europe which is emerging from more than a decade of conflict with Islamist rebels.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings on Wednesday at Bouira, 150 km (90 miles) east of Algiers, but they follow a spate of attacks by al Qaeda's north African wing.

State radio said the bombings targeted the local military commander inside an army barracks and Canadians working for a water project. The news agency said 31 people, including four military personnel, were wounded. All the dead were civilians.

The first bomb hit the barracks at 6 a.m. (0500 GMT) The second went off near a hotel 15 minutes later, exploding just as a bus passed by carrying workers to a dam construction site, APS said. Most of those who died were travelling on the bus.

APS did not specify the nationality of the dead and the radio did not make clear whether Canadians were among the victims.

The bombings appear to mark a tactical shift for militants who had previously specialised in ambushing troops in remote areas, analysts said. Some Islamic scholars in Algeria and abroad had argued that suicide bombings were un-Islamic.

HARDLINERS IN CHARGE

"The hardcore of hardliners in the group in favour of suicide bombings are in charge of the operations on the ground," said security analyst Mounir Boudjemaa, explaining the attacks.

"There is no easy solution to stop a suicide bomber. The only way is to continue to besiege the terrorist strongholds and fight them there. It is a race against time," he said.

Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni reiterated the government's view on Tuesday that the militants were being driven "to the wall" by security forces.

Tuesday's bombing was one of the bloodiest incidents in years in the country of 34 million. The target was the gendarmerie training school at Issers, 55 km (34 miles) east of the capital.

Violence began in Algeria in 1992 when a military-backed government scrapped elections a radical Islamic party was poised to win. About 150,000 people have died in the ensuing violence.

Since adopting the Al Qaeda name early last year for its previous name Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, it has claimed several attacks including the twin suicide bombings of U.N. offices and a court building in Algiers in December 2007 which killed 41 people.

Analyst Anis Rahmani said the killing of large numbers of civilians in the recent bombings was reminiscent of the country's worst massacres in the 1990s, blamed on the now disbanded Algerian Islamic Group (GIA).

"That strategy caused the failure of the GIA," Rahmani said.

David Hartwell, Middle East Editor for Janes Country Risk, said there was a concern that car bombings were being carried out by militants who had trained with insurgents fighting U.S. occupation in Iraq.

"But the group is viewed increasingly as outsiders coming in to attack Algeria. There's no evidence they have more support among the population. This is still a localised thing," he said.