Algerian police stage sit-in at government HQ on second day of protests

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 15, 2014 6:04 AM

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Hundreds of Algerian policemen staged a sit-in outside the main government offices in Algiers on Wednesday demanding better working conditions on a second day of public protests by police officers.

Security forces rarely take to the streets in the North African country, where the Front de Liberation Nationale party and the military have dominated politics since 1962 independence from France, although protests over jobs, housing and pay are common.

Chanting for the police chief to step down and singing the national anthem, about 500 officers packed into the entrance of the building and called for negotiations with the president.

"We're under too much pressure, it's 48 hours without a break each time, it's too much pressure," said one officer, referring working shifts.

The protests in Algiers started on Tuesday when hundreds of officers marched through the streets in solidarity with colleagues near the southern city of Ghardaia, after officers there were injured in clashes between Arabs and Berbers. Riots broke out on Monday between the two communities near the desert town, with two people killed, and shops set on fire.

Ghardaia, about 600 km (370 miles) from Algiers, is home to both Arabs and the Mozabite Berber community, which speaks its own language and follows its own school of Islam. The area has often been the scene of clashes over jobs, houses and land.

Similar violence erupted in the area last year and at least five people were killed.

The protests are unlikely to cause any wider security fallout for the OPEC country, with Algerians wary of turmoil or political upheaval after a 1990s war between the military and Islamist militants that killed 200,000 people.

The security forces are still battling remnants of an al Qaeda-linked insurgency and since the 2011 uprisings in neighboring Tunisia, Libya and Eqypt, have been under pressure to contain any social unrest in their country.

(The story corrects to "second" from "third" in headline and first paragraph)

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Louise Ireland)