An Algerian court sentenced the head of al-Qaeda's north African offshoot to death in his absence Tuesday for a string of 2007 attacks, including the deadly bombing of 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 a suicide bombing targeting the prime minister's office in April 2007 and two simultaneous attacks elsewhere in Algiers that killed 20 people and wounded 222.
A fourth attack was thwarted when security services defused a car bomb, according to court documents in the trial that opened on March 14.
Droukdel, a 42-year-old engineer by training whose alias is Abou Moussaab Abdelouadoud, is said to consider as his mentor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born al-Qaeda leader in Iraq killed by the U.S. 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.