Algiers: An Algerian court sentenced the
head of al Qaeda`s north African offshoot to death in absentia
on Tuesday for a string of 2007 attacks, including a deadly bombing
at the prime minister`s office.
Abdelmalek Droukdel, leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic
Magreb (AQIM), and eight co-defendants were sentenced to death
for premeditated murder, membership of a terrorist group and
attacks using explosives, said judge Tayeb Hillali of the
court in Algiers.
They were among 18 people, nine of whom were absent, put
on trial for three bomb attacks in Algiers on April 11, 2007
that killed 20 people and wounded 222.
Droukdel, a 41-year-old engineer by training whose alias
is Abou Moussaab Abdelouadoud, fought in Afghanistan and is
said to consider as his mentor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the
Jordanian-born al Qaeda leader in Iraq killed by the US
military in 2006.
He arrived at the head of what was then called the
Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in 2004, muscling his
way in by brutally eliminating rivals. The group has since
changed its name.
He is seen by experts as a ruthless chief who introduced
suicide bombings in Algeria.
Having learned about explosives during his military
service, Droukdel has put together "suicide commandos" whose
members are completely committed to him, experts say.
The other eight people sentenced were Abdessalam Samir,
Ait Said Salem, Ait Said Meziane, Ziani Said, Ghiatou Rabah,
Chemini Toufic, Niche Djamel and Bou Djalki Abderrahmane.
Lawyers for the other nine accused sought an adjournment
of their trial arguing that four of them had pulled out and
that a fifth lawyer was absent, but the court turned down