Press: Two Dead, 20 Injured in Algerian Riots
Two people died and around 20 others were wounded in anti-government riots sweeping through Algeria's northeastern Kabylie region, newspapers reported on Thursday.
Two protesters, who were among a group on Wednesday that burned down a municipal residence in Ouzellaguen and attacked a government administrative building, were shot dead by security forces, according to reports.
The region has been wracked by five days of unrest after a youth was shot dead in police custody on Sunday and three other teenagers were arrested for protesting against the government.
Local press put the number of injured at 20, and said considerable damage had been done.
The daily Le Matin said three people had been killed and 13 wounded in Wednesday's violence in the town, some 190 kilometers (110 east of Algiers), and in two neighboring villages, El Kseur and Seddouk.
Two of the injured were in a coma, the paper added.
On Wednesday, the interior minister, who went to Bejaia, the capital of the region, to appeal for calm, and said one person had been killed.
The interior ministry said three people had been injured during incidents in Bejaia and Tizi-Ouzou, another major town in Kabylie.
The ministry accused "unscrupulous pyromaniacs" of being "behind this criminal manipulation of our children."
Wednesday's riots -- in which youths yelled anti-government slogans and set fire to buildings -- swept through Akbou, a small town just west of Bejaia, Amizour, and Barbacha. Security forces responded with tear gas, witnesses said.
Tension was also reported to have been 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 authorities said the dead youth, 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 Kabylia demanding formal recognition of the Berber language and culture.
The Berbers of Kabylia 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.
Algeria has been in the throes of a civil war waged by Islamic extremists since 1992, when the army prevented the now-outlawed fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) from taking power by calling off the second round of general elections it was poised to win – ALGIERS (AFP)
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