An al-Qaeda splinter group has said it carried out a suicide attack on a paramilitary police base in southern Algeria which left 24 people wounded.

"We inform you that we are behind the explosion that occurred this morning at Tamanrasset," the group told the AFP news agency on Saturday.

The statement, sent just hours after the attack, was signed by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA).

A suicide bomber drove a four-wheel drive vehicle packed with explosives into the premises of the paramilitary police base, according to the Reuters news agency.

The website of the Algerian Arabic-language daily En Nahar said 10 gendarmes and 14 civilians were taken to hospital after the attack in Tamanrasset, 1,970km south of Algiers, the capital.

Some of the injured were said to be in critical condition.

MOJWA surfaced in December, when it claimed to be holding three Westerners kidnapped from a refugee camp in Algeria in October.

Security sources said it had broken off from the main group, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), in order to spread jihad further into West Africa.

The group released a video of the abducted aid workers and another speaking of their ideological references, including al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Al-Qaeda-linked groups have been active in Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania for a decade and their activity has picked up since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

In April 2010, the four countries formed a Committee of Joint Chiefs, based in Tamanrasset, to coordinate their military efforts against AQIM.

Source: Agencies