Algeria made it on Strait Times Interactive today with a majoy league bad news that reads: 2 Algiers bombs kill 30, stoke security fears." According to another similar news article on sg.yahoo, it was the first time since the 1990s that the Algiers city center was targeted. The suicide bombing was targetted at the prime minister's headquarters. Hospital sources put the toll from the two bombings at 30. Earlier, the official APS news agency put the toll at 17 dead with 82 wounded. The main guerilla group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which has adopted a new name since January after it deepened its ties to al Qaeda, has since claimed responsibility. The group, now called the al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb, has been responsible for a number of deadly bombings targeting security forces and foreigners.
Well at least the situation reported by the news is better than what I heard from the locals this morning. They told me there were five explosions altogether and 16 unexploded bombs discovered by the security forces. One of the explosion was just few kilometers near our office. Although there is no way of comfirming these hearsay but I believe that the locals are pretty fond of blowing things out of proportion (no pun intended).
It was widespread belief that that the islamic insurgency was a thing of the past after the issue of presidential amnesty for the insurgents (see my previous entry). Any occurences of violence are restricted to the mountainous regions while populated regions are heavily patrolled by security forces. Seems like this theory has been proven wrong.
But before everyone panics, it may be wise to look at the current situation objectively. According to the latest popular belief, the escalation of insurgent attacks is aimed at disrupting the coming general election in May. So everyone can expect a step-up in attacks from now until May. We just have to avoid public places in order to be safe. All in all, Algeria is still a safe place given the low statistics of attack occurences compared to the large numbers of foreigners here.
Does knowing this help? Hell, no. Our group of expatriates has to commute from our guest apartment to the office daily through congested and narrow city streets for about 20 - 40 mins, depending on traffic conditions, in a big Hiace passenger van. We are going to be sitting ducks vulnerable to road side bombs or sidewalk gun fire attacks if we are being targeted. Am I being paranoid? I don't think so, there had been one such attack on expatriates of an American company last year and a similar incident on a Russian company bus last month. While the situation is not totally FUBAR but it will be something to think about on the daily commute.
Man, life in Algiers is getting more interesting!