Halliburton Workers Attacked in Algeria

Assailants hurled a bomb and shot at two vehicles carrying employees of an affiliate of U.S. company Halliburton near Algiers Sunday, killing one driver and injuring nine people.

The driver killed was Algerian. The injured included one American, several Britons, one Canadian, one Lebanese and one Algerian, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Eight were treated in a nearby hospital and released, while one remained hospitalized. The statement did not indicate the remaining patient's nationality.

The attack threatened to stain the oil-rich North African nation's international security image just as it is enjoying an oil boom and increased foreign investment after a bloody insurgency that wracked Algeria in the 1990s.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Several employees of BRC, or Brown & Root-Condor, were heading from their offices to a Sheraton Hotel where they are housed in the town of Bouchaoui, nine miles west of Algiers, when they were attacked in the early evening.

BRC is an Algerian-registered company created in 1994 and now owned jointly by Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc., formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root, and affiliates of Algerian state-owned oil company Sonatrach. BRC has contracts with Algeria's oil and defense industries.

Most of the employees were in a bus following behind a security vehicle. The assailants hurled a bomb at the first vehicle, immediately killing the driver, security officials said.

Attackers then opened fire on the second bus, which quickly turned around and left before the gunmen dispersed, witnesses said.

Some of the BRC employees, visibly shaken, arrived at the Sheraton Hotel in Bouchaoui later Sunday, but refused to speak to reporters.

The British Foreign Office said three Britons were "slightly injured" in the attack. The Algerian Interior Ministry said four Britons were injured.

Algerian security forces immediately fanned out through the surrounding area and blocked off roads. The attack was seen as unusually bold because it was so near the capital and there is always heavy security in the area.

Attacks on American targets are rare in Algeria. Politics in the country were strongly anti-American during the Cold War, but Algiers has allied with the United States in its war on terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks, sharing intelligence and cooperating militarily.

Algerian militants previously have focused their wrath on homegrown security forces. Attacks on foreign targets in the past primarily hit the French, reflecting lingering bitterness at Algeria's former colonial ruler.

Algeria is trying to pull itself out of an Islamic insurgency that started 14 years ago and has killed an estimated 150,000 people. Large-scale fighting died down in the late 1990s, but sporadic violence continues to rattle the nation.

BRC officials in Algeria would not comment on the attack.

KBR Inc. is an independent, publicly traded subsidiary of Houston-based oil services contractor Halliburton Co., once run by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Melissa Norcross, a Halliburton spokeswoman, said in a statement that KBR "will continue to cooperateUwith the appropriate authorities throughout the ongoing investigation."

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