'Solve problems or risk bombs'

2007-10-24 10:14

Algiers - A number of suicide bombers in Algeria could increase unless the country offers fresh prospects and a brighter future for young people, said President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Tuesday.

A series of suicide attacks claimed by al-Qaeda's North African arm this year had raised the spectre of a return to the civil violence that tore through the oil and gas exporting country during the 1990s.

Early last month, a man blew himself up in a crowd waiting to see Bouteflika in the eastern town of Batna, killing 20 people.

Two days later, a suicide truck bombing killed 37 people at a coast guard barracks in Dellys east of Algiers.

A triple suicide attack earlier in the year in the capital left 33 dead and another inside a barracks in the town of Lakhdaria killed eight soldiers.

200 000 people killed

Bouteflika said: "The suicide bombers of Algiers, Lakhdaria, Batna and Dellys could become much more numerous if we do not take things seriously.

"The problem of the future of youth is more than ever imposed on the authorities and called for ideas, analysis and especially large co-ordinated action."

Up to 200 000 people had been killed in Algeria since 1992 after military-backed authorities scrapped parliamentary elections that an Islamist party was poised to win.

The violence had subsided in recent years, but some bloodshed continued, mainly in the Kabylie region east of Algiers.

Unemployment rate 'high'

The government had launched a five-year plan worth $140bn to restore hope among Algeria's 33 million inhabitants and put the economy back on track, but social problems remained a headache to the authorities.

The economy offered too few jobs to the population, of which 70% was under 30. According to official figures, the national unemployment rate was estimated at 12% but among people under 30 it was 75% in 2005.

Dozens of young people could usually be seen queuing outside European consulates for visas to travel in search of a better life in the West. Many failed, forcing them to attempt dangerous sea crossings to Europe.

Last year, coastguards said they found a total of 42 bodies washed up on Algeria's coastline, most of them would-be migrants.

Bouteflika said: "The state needs to improve its youth policy ... to deter the desperate search for visas abroad. How, indeed, do we give our young people confidence in their own abilities and the institutions of their country?"