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12 killed in Algeria blast

ALGIERS, August 21 – Two car bomb attacks in eastern Algeria killed at least 12 people, state radio and a Canadian employer reported with the country still reeling from a suicide bomber who killed 43 people a day earlier.

At least 31 people were also wounded in the latest attacks in the town of Bouira, one on a passenger bus and another near a military headquarters, Algerian radio said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but an Al-Qaeda group has staged several attacks in Algeria over the past year and has been involved in clashes with government forces in the oil- and gas-rich state.

One bomb targeted a bus parked near the Sophie hotel, in the city centre. The second bomb went off near the military headquarters in Bouira, which is 120 kilometres (70 miles) southeast of Algiers.

The early morning blast blew out windows in the hotel and other nearby buildings. A security cordon was immediately thrown around the centre of Bouira, witnesses said.

Twelve Algerian employees of the Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin were killed and 15 others were wounded in the blast, the company said.

The SNC-Lavalin staff were travelling to work on the Koudiat Acerdoune water treatment plant and distribution project when their bus was attacked, the company said. The company employs 2,000 staff across the country.

"We want all our personnel to know that… health and security are the company’s highest priorities," spokeswoman Gillian MacCormack told AFP. "We are working with the Algerian authorities to ensure the safety of our staff."

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Bouira is part of a so-called "zone of death" it forms with Algiers, Tizi Ouzou and Boumerdes where attacks have been rife.

The attacks came only a day after a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into the entrance of a police school killing 43 people and injuring 45 in Issers, also east of Algiers.

Most of these victims were university graduates waiting outside to take an entry exam in the hopes of joining the paramilitary police force.

World outrage and shock spilled as a second straight day of bomb attacks in Algeria took the death toll to 55 and injured scores of civilians.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the spate of attacks in Algeria and urged the international community to back the north African country’s fight against terror.

"He urges once again that the international community support the efforts of the Government of Algeria to combat terrorism," his office said.

"The Secretary General firmly believes that violence will not deter the people of Algeria from the path of peace and national reconciliation."

On Sunday, armed Islamists ambushed a security force convoy at Skikda, 500 kilometers (300 miles) east of Algiers, killing eight police, three soldiers and a civilian, media reports said.

The Issers attack was the deadliest this year in Algeria and worse than the December 2007 attacks in Algiers against government and United Nations buildings, which killed 41 people and injured many others.

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Those attacks were claimed by the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an Algeria-based group which last year declared allegiance to Al-Qaeda and renamed itself Al-Qaeda’s Branch in the Islamic Maghreb.

The government has reaffirmed its determination to "combat" terrorism and pursue its policy of national reconciliation, which has seen the pardoning of several Islamists.

Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni said after a visit to Issers on Tuesday that "the terrorists should know that the only way for them is to give themselves up."

In a statement released late Tuesday, the government said: "As the president of the republic has said many times, the state will unflinchingly fight terrorism, with a strong determination until its total elimination in our country."

It added: "At the same time, Algeria will not deviate from the path of national reconciliation chosen by the nation and which has already given major progress in the consolidation of security across the national territory."

The wave of Islamist attacks has caused international concern, partly because of Algeria’s importance as a supplier of natural gas.

China lambasted the "terrorist action," while Russia said it would back Algiers’ efforts to eradicate "underground terrorist organisations" with the United States, Britain and Spain among others also expressing their solidarity with the victims.

US President George W. Bush offered his "sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones, and to the people of Algeria," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

"These criminals and thugs must be stopped, and the United States will continue working with Algeria in close cooperation on counterterrorism measures," Johndroe told reporters.

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Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos telephoned his Algerian counterpart Mourad Medelci to offer his condolences, on the day 153 people were reported killed in an air crash at Madrid international airport.

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