Bomb wounds several in Algerian village-residents

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MAATKAS, Algeria, Nov 11 (Reuters) A car bomb badly damaged a police station in a village east of Algiers last night, wounding several people, residents said.

''The explosion was shocking. It was about 8 to 8.30 p.m.

(0030 to 0100 hrs IST) and I thought the village had been destroyed,'' said Aziz Rahmaniya, 22, a resident of Maatkas, a village 80 km east of Algiers in the Kabylie region.

The police station in the village of several thousand people appeared to be almost totally ruined.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but a security source said the attack was launched by Islamist rebels fighting for the past 15 years to try to overthrow the government.

''Right after the blast we clashed with the terrorists and we prevented a major follow-up attack against our people,'' the security source said.

The north African OPEC member country is recovering from more than a decade of violence that began in 1992 when the then army-backed government scrapped legislative elections that a radical Islamic party was poised to win. The authorities had feared an Islamic revolution.

Up to 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed.

Al Qaeda said it was behind suicide bombings in Dellys town, east of Algiers, on September 8 and a suicide blast in southeast Batna town on September 6 that killed a total of 57 people.

A small home-made bomb exploded in front of a police station in Zemmouri town about 50 km east of Algiers on September 14, killing three people and wounding five.

Algeria's violence had fallen since the 1990s, but in the past 12 months it has regained some of its former intensity, particularly in the mountainous Kabylie region.

A hard core of several hundred al Qaeda-linked rebels fight on in Kabylie from remote bases in dense forests.

The death toll from political violence fell to 60 in October from 75 in September, although casualties among rebels grew as government forces stepped up raids on al Qaeda hideouts, according to a Reuters count based on newspaper reports.

REUTERS GL DS1345

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