Twin car bombs ripped through the streets of the Algerian capital, Algiers, onTuesday morning, killing at least26 people, includingas many as11 United Nations workers, government and UN officials said.
The official death toll, which was provided by Algerian Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni, conflicted with the number of fatalities reported by hospital and rescue officials, which doubled the government's count. The minister identified the nationalities of two of the dead UN staffers — one Danish, the other Senegalese.
UN spokeswoman Maria Okabe said from New York thatat least 11 UN workers werekilled.
"There are still a number of people unaccounted for, a number of people trapped under the rubble, and the latest death toll that we have is 11," she said.
The two blasts, which occurred 10 minutes apart starting at around 9:30 a.m.,also injured 177 people and ripped the facade off a new government building, Zerhouni said.
"We are looking through the rubble for people," Jean Fabre, head of the UN Development Program's Geneva office, said after speaking with Marc Destanne De Bernis, the agency's top official in Algiers.
Al-Qaeda's North African branch later claimed responsibility for the attacks, posting a statement on a militant website praising "another successful conquest … carried out by the Knights of the Faith with their blood in defence of the wounded nation of Islam."
Images were provided of the two "martyrs," identified as Ibrahim Abu Uthman and Abdul Rahman Abu Abdul Nasser Al-Aassemi.
Death toll as high as 60
The two car bombs appeared to target the Constitutional Council and UN officeslined up along the streets in the upscale Hydra neighbourhood.
There was still confusion over how many people were killed in thetwin bombings, with doctors in Algiers putting the death toll as high as 60 and an anonymous official at the civil protection agency telling the Associated Press that45 people were killed.
"It was horror," said Mohammed Faci, 23, whose arm was broken by the blast as he rode a bus.
The blast brought to mind another attack on UN buildings on Aug. 19, 2003,when a truck bomb blew up outside UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others.
The targeting ofUN offices was a new development in the 15-year war between Algeria's secular government and Islamic insurgents, who previously focused their hate on symbols of the military-backed administration and civilians.