New Anti-Government Riots in Algeria
A new wave of riots broke out Wednesday in the northeastern Algerian region of Kabylie, days after a youth was shot dead in police custody and three other teenagers were arrested for protesting against the government.
Protesters in Akbou, a small town just west of Bejaia, some 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of the capital Algiers, set a tax office on fire and barred streets and a main road leading to the capital, an AFP reporter witnessed.
The protesters, most of them young, yelled anti-government slogans and burned tires, barrels and felled trees, as gendarmes fired tear gas in retaliation.
In Amizour, where administrative buildings had already been looted and set on fire over the past few days, a group of youths threw stones at security forces, who sprayed tear gas, according to witnesses.
In Barbacha, rioters torched the tax revenue building, and tension was reported to be high in the towns of Sidi Aich, El-Kseur, Tazmalt, Seddouk and Timezrit.
The riots started in the Bejaia region on Sunday, when the gendarmerie arrested three secondary school students protesting against the government.
The deputy police chief of Bejaia was suspended for "serious negligence," the state news agency reported on Tuesday.
The situation was calm Wednesday in Beni Douala, where a gendarme killed a teenager in custody on Sunday. The gendarme was currently in detention awaiting trial.
The authorities said Mohamed Geurmah was killed by rounds from a machine gun that had fired after slipping from the gendarme's hands, but his family and area residents rejected the official version of events, claiming he was murdered.
At least 50 people were injured in violent demonstrations in the aftermath of Geurmah's death. His burial on Monday in the village of Ait-Mahmoud sparked new riots in Beni Douala.
The unrest coincided with the 21st anniversary of the "Berber Spring" of 1980 when authorities cracked down on demonstrations in Kabylie demanding formal recognition of the Berber language and culture.
The Berbers of Kabylie were in the forefront of Algeria's liberation struggle against France, but a divide-and-rule policy continued after independence in 1962, heightening antagonism between Arabs and Berbers -- ALGIERS (AFP).
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)