ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Hundreds of Algeria's policemen set to be deployed to a riot-torn southern city staged a protest march through the capital on Tuesday.
The country's police have not been known to demonstrate before and the unprecedented march comes at a delicate time for this key U.S. ally in the war against terror, with its long ruling president rarely seen and rumored to be ill.
The protesters were showing their solidarity for their colleagues in the southern oasis city Ghardaia to end the attacks on security forces in the area that is the scene of constant riots, Djilali Boudalia, a police spokesman, told the state news agency.
Thousands of police have been sent to Ghardaia, some 500 kilometers south of Algiers, to stop the constant clashes between the rival Berber and Arab communities there. About a dozen people have been killed and many shops burned in the riots that have flared since December as the communities compete for scarce jobs and housing there.
Two people were killed in clashes Monday and dozens of police wounded.
Wearing blue uniforms but without weapons or armor, the 300 riot police walked silently in the rain along the highway from their barracks into Algiers and to the seat of the government where they were briefly met by the local governor. Drivers honked their horns and people applauded the police as they passed by.
Despite being known for their ruthless efficiency in suppressing dissent, Algeria's security forces have not been able to calm the recurring unrest in Ghardaia.
The protesters demanded to see the Minister of Interior Tayeb Belaiz and also called for the removal of Gen. Abdelghani Hamel, the head of all security forces in the country, according to local media.
Some 1,500 members of the police also protested in Ghardaia on Monday over their job conditions, arguing that they were not being allowed to use sufficient force to do their job and calling for Gen. Hamel to step down.