20,000 Protestors Mark Anniversary of Algerian Singer's Killing
Some 20,000 people began a protest march here Monday to mark the death three years ago of popular singer Lounes Matoub, an outspoken Berber critic both of the government and the Islamic fundamentalist movement of Algeria.
The crowd, mainly comprised of ethnic Berber youths, gathered at the university ahead of the march, which was to end at the law courts at the other end of the city.
Despite efforts by organizers to steer the youths away from the headquarters of the local paramilitary gendarmerie, a section of the crowd broke away and headed towards the building soon after the march began.
Tizi Ouzou, 110 kilometres (68 miles) east of Algiers, is a major city in Algeria's northeastern Berber homeland of Kabylie, which has been rocked by rioting for the past two months.
Clashes between youths demanding an end to government oppression and police and gendarmes have resulted in the deaths of 56 people, with 2,300 injured, according to an official toll.
Opposition parties and the private press say that between 80 and 100 people have died and more than 3,000 have been injured.
Monday's protest march was called by the Lounes Matoub Foundation to make a new demand for "truth and justice" relating to the killing of the singer.
Matoub was gunned down by unknown assailants on June 25, 1998, in an ambush on a mountainous road between Tizi Ouzou and his nearby village of Taourirt-Moussa.
The government blamed Islamic militants who had in September 1994 kidnapped him and held him for two weeks before releasing him.
But his sister claimed the authorities, wanting to silence him, were behind the killing.
Posthumously considered the "guide" of the Berber revolt, Matoub has become the idol of Berber youths, who during the recent protests and rioting have carried his posters high and chanted his protest songs before doing battle with riot police -- TIZI OUZOU, Algeria (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)