Anti-riot police block Algeria protest

AFP , Saturday 12 Mar 2011

Police in Algeria launched a massive security operation to head off marchers calling for an immediate end to Bouteflika's regime

Riot policemen detain a protester during a demonstration in Algiers March 12, 2011. Some 50 people shouted anti-government slogans in a square in Algeria's capital on Saturday but were encircled by hundreds of police determined to stamp out any attempt to stage an Egypt-style revolt (REUTERS)

Anti-riot police in central Algiers blocked around 40 demonstrators who attempted to stage a rally, an AFP reporter witnessed.

The movement against Bouteflika, 73, is being led by the National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD) which was set up on January 21 after riots at the start of the year that left five dead and 800 injured.

It has said it wants Bouteflika to step down, citing the same problems of high unemployment, housing and soaring costs that inspired the uprisings in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.

The protesters shouted anti-regime slogans but were surrounded by around 400 police with anti-riot shields and wearing helmets.

The CNCD has split between supporters of street protests and civil society groups and independent trade unions who prefer to pursue other measures.

Bouteflika on February 24 promised to place "anti-corruption" at the heart of government action, along with reforms to help the economy, employment and housing to regain Algerians' support.

On Monday, at least 10,000 auxiliary police demanding pay rises broke through heavy security in Algiers to reach parliament, in a rare mass show of dissent in the tightly controlled country.

Emboldened by popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world, Algeria's opposition has attempted to stage several anti-Bouteflika protests in the capital, in defiance of the ban on demonstrating in the city, but have been thwarted.

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