Monday, January 10, 2011

Algeria: 2 killed in riots over rising food prices

By AOMAR OUALI, Associated Press Jan 8, 2011

ALGIERS, Algeria – Two demonstrators died in spreading unrest over rising
food prices in this North African nation, the interior minister said
Saturday and the government announced that it will cut the cost of sugar
and cooking oil.

The deaths were the first reported in the four days of unrest sweeping the
cities of Algeria, where a brutal Islamist insurgency raged for decades.

At least 300 police officers and some 100 demonstrators have also been
injured since Wednesday when youths began rioting over rising prices of
staples like sugar, Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia said on national

One protester was shot to death by police Friday as he tried to enter the
police station during rioting in Ain Lahdjel, in the M'Sila region, some
350 kilometers (215 miles) southeast of Algiers, the capital, Kablia said.
The other died in Bou Ismail, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of
Algiers, he said, without providing other information.

In a bid to quell the violence, which has left some public buildings in
ruins, the government said Saturday it was slashing the prices of sugar
and cooking oil by 41 percent.

Muslim religious leaders have also joined the attempt to calm the unrest,
calling for calm during Friday prayers. One of the leaders, speaking on
national radio, said that serenity is one of God's graces, a message that
also underscores concern that the violence could play into the hands of
Muslim fundamentalists.

Rioting was reported on Friday in Annaba, Oran, Bouira and Bejaia. The
website of the daily El Watan showed a photo of a barricade in flames on a
main avenue of the city of Tizi Ouzou, capital of the Kabyle region, now
one of the redoubts for insurgents linked to al-Qaida in the Islamic

The rising prices of sugar, cooking oil and some other staples feed
general discontent in a nation which is a major gas exporter but where
housing shortages and poverty are endemic.

Unrest has spread as far as Constantine, in eastern Algeria, where youths
faced down police in skirmishes early Saturday.

Constantine, Algeria's third largest city, is on the route to nearby
Tunisia where three weeks of unrest are taking a toll on the iron-fisted
leadership running the country.

Tunisian police have killed two demonstrators since the start of unrest
there, union sources have reported.

Another protester electrocuted himself and the fourth, a 26-year-old man
with a university degree, set himself on fire Dec. 17 in the
central-western town of Sidi Bouzaid, before dying Tuesday in a hospital
outside Tunis. He self-immolated after police confiscated fruits and
vegetables he was selling without a permit.

On Friday, witnesses reported five protesters and a police officer were
allegedly injured after security forces opened fire on demonstrators in
Saida, outside Sidi Bouzaid.

One witness told The Associated Press by phone from a hospital in nearby
Regueb where the injured were transferred that two of the five were
seriously injured.

Tunisian authorities told the AP that they had no information about the
alleged injuries.


Bouazza Ben Bouazza contributed to this report from Tunis.

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