Source AP ©

Suicide bomber rams car into police school, killing at least 43

A suicide bomber rammed a car laden with explosives into an Algerian police school, killing at least 43 people and injuring 38, the Interior Ministry said. It was one of the largest attacks in recent years in the country.

The death toll was a "preliminary estimate" for the attack early Tuesday in the Les Issers district of Boumerdes, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) east of the capital, Algiers, the ministry said in a statement.

A security official at the academy told The Associated Press that the attack occurred as young applicants were in line waiting to register.

The academy, known as the gendarmerie, was vulnerable because of the crowd of applicants waiting at its gate, he said on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss such matters with the media.

Witnesses said all roads were blocked within a 3-kilometer (2-mile) perimeter around Les Issers and that cell phone networks were jammed Tuesday as police closed-off the area.

No group has yet claimed responsibility, but the country's al-Qaida affiliate has said it was behind a string of bombings in the past year and a half.

The attack appeared to be one of the largest - if not the largest - in years. In December, a double suicide bombing in Algiers killed 41 people, including 17 U.N. workers. In April 2007, coordinated suicide strikes against the main government offices in central Algiers and a police station killed 33.

Several newspapers, meanwhile, reported on an ambush by similar suspected Islamist militants that killed 12 people Sunday. The ambush in the Skikda locality, 500 kilometers (310 miles) east of Algiers, had apparently targeted the military commander of the region and his police escort, the reports said.

The Al Watan newspaper, usually well informed on terrorism cases, reported the case Tuesday along with several other dailies. There has been no comment on the attack by authorities.

The newspapers said eight police officers, three soldiers and one civilian were killed when the militants, suspected to belong to a local branch of al-Qaida, opened fire on the convoy after setting off several road mines. They then beheaded all the victims and stole their uniforms along with a dozen automatic riffles, the reports said.

In a similar attack three days earlier, militants killed the military chief for the Jijel area, also east of Algiers, local media reported.

Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, formerly known as the GSPC, grew out of an insurgency in the 1990s, which left as many as 200,000 dead.

Violence strongly diminished in Algeria in the early part of this decade, but attacks increased again after the GSPC affirmed allegiance to al-Qaida in 2006.

Most attacks have been targeting the Algerian national security services and military, while others have struck foreigners.

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