Algerian protest, stampede leaves at least one dead in capital

  • Saturday 02, March 2019 07:36 AM
  • Algerian protest, stampede leaves at least one dead in capital
Sharjah 24 – Reuters: Tens of thousands of people in cities across Algeria called on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to leave office on Friday in the country's biggest anti-government demonstrations since the Arab Spring eight years ago.
The protests were mostly peaceful but as crowds receded by late afternoon, scuffles broke out in the capital Algiers between police and protesters near the presidential palace, witnesses said.

One person died, according to a local official. Local media said it was a 60-year-old man who suffered a heart attack.

Several protesters and policemen were wounded during clashes in Algiers, state television said. News website TSA put the number of wounded at 63, citing official figures. It said 45 people were detained.

A sea of demonstrators, young and old, had thronged the streets after Friday prayers, chanting "Bye, bye Bouteflika!" and "Peaceful! Peaceful!" Many were draped in the Algerian flag and carried placards and banners.

Large scale demonstrations - rarely seen in Algeria - against plans for Bouteflika to seek a fifth term in power in April elections began a week ago, but Friday saw the biggest turnout yet.

The 81-year-old suffered a stroke in 2013 and has been seen in public only a few times since. His re-election bid stoked resentment among Algerians who believe he is not fit to lead.

Among the crowd was Djamila Bouhired, 83, a heroine of the 1954-1962 independence war against France, who told reporters: "I'm happy to be here."

After hours of marching, many protesters began walking home but some stayed on, dancing and singing.

Large crowds also gathered in the cities of Oran, Constantine, Setif, Tizi Ouzou and Bouira, residents and local media said.

Bouteflika, who will turn 82 on Saturday, has not directly addressed the protests. The authorities said last week he would travel to Geneva for unspecified medical checks, although there was no official confirmation he had travelled.

Local television stations reported the protests but there was no live coverage. State television and the official news agency APS both provided rare coverage of the march which they said had been largely peaceful.

State media had on Tuesday started covering the dissent after journalist employees pressured management.