Violence in Algeria’s Berber Areas Continues Despite Gov’t Pledge of Security Force Pullout
Rioting raged on in Algeria's Berber Kabylie region on Monday, despite a government bid to calm local anger by moving out hundreds of gendarmes, reported Reuters.
Berber protesters have demanded the complete withdrawal of the 10,000-strong gendarme force whom they accuse of brutality and corruption.
The government says security forces have shot dead 52 protesters and wounded 280 others since the clashes erupted in mid-April over the death of a teenager at a gendarmerie barracks. Independent newspapers say up to 80 rioters have died.
Gendarmes shot dead one rioter on Monday and wounded others in Tadmait village, west of the main Berber city Tizi Ouzou which is 90 km (56 miles) east of Algiers, residents told Reuters.
Gendarme chiefs said on Monday the withdrawal of more than 600 gendarmes was aimed at easing tensions. "The movement of gendarmerie personnel aims at restoring confidence with the population in Kabylie," the gendarmerie headquarters said in a statement reported by the official Algerian news agency APS.
And in an unprecedented move, gendarme leaders expressed "deep regrets for the tragic consequences of the incidents which affected the population in Kabylie provinces."
The statement did not say exactly when the gendarmes had left and did not say if they would be replaced by others, said Reuters.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Sunday pledged harsh punishment for those involved in the riots.
"Severe penalties are inevitable, penalties which are clear and proportionate with the transgressions from whatever quarter they have come," Bouteflika said.
He said punishments would be decided when an inquiry commission he set up early this month completed its findings.
"(The commission report) will be published in detail so that all judicial and legal measures can be taken against those who ignited the fire of sedition and kindled the ember of division," Bouteflika said.
Independent newspapers and opposition parties criticized the commission as a delaying tactic that would worsen the situation in civil strife-torn Algeria.
According to the agency, many Algerians believe army generals stirred the riots to divert attention from infighting within the country's military leadership and accusations of human rights abuses, according to the agency.
On Sunday, clashes flared in Algeria at the end of an anti-government march by tens of thousands of people from the country's ethnic Berber community, said the BBC.online.
As the march in the north-eastern city of Bejaia came to an end, militant youths began attacking business premises, regarded as symbolizing the Algerian state, reported the BBC - Albawaba.com
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