The resurgence of violence in Algeria has shocked the population.
After a violent Islamic campaign in the 1990s which killed more than 150,000 people, it was thought the country was emerging from the turmoil.
However just one month after the “Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat” declared its allegiance to al Qaeda there were seven simultaneous bombings in Algeria.
February 13 2007 is remembered as a dark day. Six people died and 30 were wounded. Now the Algerians have another.
The organisation, now calling itself the “Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Mahgreb”, is based in the mountainous north of the country.
Believed to be 300-strong, the guerrilla group is led by an emir calling himself Abou Mossaab Abdelouadoud. In a recorded video he uses the rhetoric of al Qaeda to threaten France, the United States and the secular government of Algeria.
After Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
came to power in 1999 he reached out an olive branch to the group. But his attempts were rejected.
The current leader took over from founder Hassan Hattab who is thought to have been executed by some of his followers in 2003 for daring to talk with President Bouteflika.
The group’s stated domestic objective has been the installation of an Islamic government in Algiers. It has vowed to minimise civilian casualties and targets police and other government officials, so enjoying some popular support.
But international intelligence experts fear the group’s global objectives most. It is already believed to have sent members to act as suicide bombers in Iraq.
The group has been linked to several foiled attacks against US and European targets. Recent arrests are alleged to have uncovered plans for chemical attacks.
Algeria has accused Iran and Sudan of funding the extremists.