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Algeria on alert after bomb blasts

Story Highlights

• Algerian security forces step up street presence after deadly bomb attacks
• At least 33 people killed, 222 injured in two blasts in capital, Algiers
• Al Qaeda-affiliated group claims responsibility in phone call to Al-Jazeera, on Web
• Explosions raise fears of renewed Islamist insurgency in the north African country
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ALGIERS, Algeria (CNN) -- Algerian security forces have stepped up their presence on the streets of the capital, Algiers, one day after the city was shaken by two deadly bomb blasts and amid fears of a renewed insurgency in the north African country.

At least 33 people were killed and another 222 injured by Wednesday's explosions, one of which targeted the officers of Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, according to the state news agency APS. (Watch a defiant Belkhadem react after the blast Video)

An al Qaeda-affiliated group claimed responsibility for the apparent suicide attacks, which also targeted a police station.

A spokesman for al Qaeda in the Maghreb (North Africa) made the claim in a telephone call to Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera, the broadcaster said.

The group also posted a statement on an Islamist Web site. CNN could not verify the claims.

Police had set up highway checkpoints and deployed extra patrols in the Mediterranean city on Thursday in scenes reminiscent of the height of Algeria's bloody conflict with Islamist militants in the 1990s that left 200,000 dead, Reuters reported.

"The Algiers attacks have woken the demons of a violence that we believed had been contained," the Liberte daily wrote, as many Algerians questioned whether their government had been too soft on militants through a policy of reconciliation that included amnesties for former fighters.

After years of relative calm, al Qaeda in the Maghreb, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, has recently been responsible for several smaller attacks elsewhere in Algeria, The Associated Press said.

"The more the military pressure mounts against the terrorists, the more the terrorist movement hunches up into an increasing radicalism. The more the security services near the total eradication of these vermin, the more the terrorists launch desperate actions," wrote Liberte.

"Terrorism doesn't frighten Algerians. What they fear is the resignation, the weaknesses and the compromises made by those who have the task of rescuing Algeria from its crisis," wrote Omar Belhouchet, editor of the El Watan newspaper.

Senior officials including President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Belkhadem held an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss ways to "neutralize" terrorists' abilities to inflict harm, APS reported.

"Such criminal acts are meant to plunge Algeria back into the crisis years," Belkhadem said, quoted by AP.

Belkhadem described Wednesday's car bomb attack on his offices, which ripped a hole in the front of the six-storey building, as a "criminal and cowardly act" and expressed bitterness at insurgents who had refused the amnesty offers.

"The Algerian people stretched out a hand to them, and they respond with a terrorist act," he said.

Wednesday's blasts came amid concerns of a deepening region-wide conflict after three suspected terrorists blew themselves up and a fourth was shot dead during a police raid in Casablanca in neighboring Morocco on Tuesday. Moroccan police said they had a arrested a fifth member of the cell on Thursday, according to state news agency Maghreb Arabe Presse. (Full story)

Tunisia has also been the scene of recent clashes between security forces and Islamist insurgents.

Moroccan Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa said there was no link between Tuesday's raid in Casablanca and Wednesday's attacks in Algiers.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Algerian firemen try to extinguish a burning vehicle after one of Wednesday's blast.

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