Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Assassin's Bomb Kills Algerian Bishop

ALGIERS -- The Algerian-born French bishop of Oran was killed in a bomb attack only hours after taking part in a ceremony honoring seven French monks slain by Algerian militants, French and Algerian officials said Friday.

Pierre Claverie died late Thursday in the explosion, which also killed his chauffeur and destroyed their car. The bomb went off as the two returned to the diocese in Oran, 400 kilometers west of Algiers, following the memorial ceremony.

French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette condemned "in the most absolute, indignant manner this vile attack, this act of particular cowardice.''

Speaking Friday morning in Paris, de Charette noted that he had just met Claverie the night before. "We talked about measures that he himself had taken to improve the security of the faithful in his diocese, measures that we must reinforce constantly. But he also confirmed to me his unshakable wish to continue his mission.''

The French government "will not let itself be swayed from its path'' in Algeria, where it hopes to establish relations "of friendship and solidarity,'' de Charette said.

The bishop, who was born Henri Claverie but chose to go by the name Pierre Claverie, was the 19th French member of the clergy killed in the troubled north African country since the anti-government violence began in earnest in January 1992.

Prime Minister Alain Jupp? also condemned "the odious attack.''

"All his life, Monseigneur Claverie, in the Algiers where he was born, stood as a man of dialogue between religions and cultures,'' Jupp? said in a statement. "His murder can only reinforce the determination of all those who reject violence and hate, and of those who are determined that unity and peace prevail.''

Algerian officials said they viewed the killing as a response by Islamic fundamentalist militants to de Charette's visit, meant to boost ties between France and its former colony.

Militant members of Algeria's Moslem movement view France's tacit support of the army-backed government as a major obstacle in their insurgency to establish an Islamic state.

There was no claim of responsibility for Claverie's killing.

He had just taken part Thursday night in a ceremony in Tibhirine, 100 kilometers south of Algiers, in which de Charette paid tribute to the Trappist monks who were abducted and killed by Moslem guerrillas in May. De Charette's visit to the Notre Dame de l'Atlas monastery had been kept secret, and was announced by the Foreign Ministry in Paris only after it was underway.

In an interview with French television in May after the seven monks were killed, Claverie said he recognized the danger but that he would stay in Algeria.

"To leave would be to give credence to those who want to separate communities,'' he said then.