ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algerian police tried to push their way into the president's headquarters Wednesday in an unprecedented protest movement prompted by violence against security forces in the south. The whereabouts of the long-ailing president were unclear.
The unrest in southern Algeria and protests in the capital come amid concerns that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is too ill to rule Africa's largest country, an ally in U.S. efforts against terrorism. Bouteflika, who helped bring stability to Algeria after a decade of bloodshed, has barely been seen in public since his re-election in April.
In the second day of protests in Algiers, about 300 police officers marched to the president's office, wearing their blue uniforms but apparently unarmed. Some tried to push their way past the front gate but were stopped by presidential guards.
The president's chief of staff, Ahmed Ouyahia, emerged to try to talk to protesters, but quickly went back inside after being met with boos and hisses.
The police demanded to see the prime minister instead. They also sought the resignation of security chief Gen. Abdelghani Hamel, chanting "Hamel, Get Out!"
The protesters are showing support for colleagues in the riot-torn southern oasis city Ghardaia, where security forces have reportedly been attacked. About a dozen people have been killed and many shops burned in riots since December, as Berber and Arab communities compete for scarce jobs and housing there. Thousands of police have been sent there to quell the violence.
Algeria often sees small protests by those frustrated by the distribution of the country's oil and gas wealth, but police have not been known to demonstrate before.
"For an institution such as the police to rebel, that is a first," said sociologist Nacer Djabi, linking the situation to "a vacuum of power."
Karim Kebir in Algiers contributed to this report.