At least three Algerian demonstrators were killed Saturday after violent protests across the country entered their fourth day. The government promised to cut the cost of certain foods in order to quell the unrest, which was sparked by soaring prices.
AFP - Three people were killed and over 400 injured in riots in Algeria linked to rising food costs and unemployment, the interior minister said Saturday, as the government scrambled to tackle the crisis.
In a bid to curb the price rises, which in some cases have reached 30 percent since January 1, the government announced a temporary 41 percent cut in customs duties and taxes on sugar and food oils.
"I confirm the death of three young people at M'sila, Tipaza and Boumerdes," Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia said on the Canal Algerie television channel, referring to three towns where unrest had broken out.
Two of the victims were killed Friday during the riots and the third victim was found in a hotel burned down by rioters, he said.
After a meeting of cabinet ministers to deal with the crisis, the government issued a statement announcing "temporary and exceptional exemptions" on import duties, value-added tax and corporate tax for sugar and food oils.
The measure would be retroactive to January 1 and be in force until August 31. The government said it expected "producers and distributors to urgently reflect (the exemptions) in sale prices to consumers."
Ould Kablia had said earlier that one victim in M'Sila, 300 kilometres (180 miles) southeast of Algiers, was shot dead Friday in an attempt to break into a police station. Newspaper El Khabar named the victim as 18-year-old Azzedine Lebza.
Another victim at Tipaza, 70 kilometres west of Algiers, was found with head wounds on Friday but the exact cause of death was not known, he said. A medical official said earlier that the man, 32-year-old Akriche Abdelfattah, had been hit in the face by a tear gas canister.
Ould Kablia said police had been ordered to show restraint in containing the demonstrations and had paid for it.
"More than 300 police and gendarmes have been wounded, while on the other side there are fewer than 100 hurt," he said.
The minister said police had made an unspecified number of arrests, slamming "criminal acts of destruction and violence by demonstrators who spared neither public nor private property."
Youths clashed with police in Algiers and other cities across the country on Friday despite appeals for calm from imams on the third day of unrest.
In Annaba, 600 kilometres west of Algiers, 21 people including seven police were injured, according to emergency services and a policeman who asked not to be named.
The rioting, which broke out after Friday prayers in a poor neighbourhood of the city, continued late into the night and on Saturday. A local government office was ransacked, according to witnesses.
In Tizi Ouzou, capital of the eastern Kabylie region, residents said rioting had spread from the city centre to the outskirts, and demonstrators burning tyres blocked the main road to Algiers.
Similar protests took place in the Algiers district of Belcourt but the capital was calmer Saturday.
Most of the country's political parties had on Saturday called for immediate measures to tackle the crisis.
The National Liberation Front (FLN), the leading member of the country's ruling coalition, called in a statement for "concrete measures to fight against the leap in prices and to protect the purchasing power" of Algerians.
"Controls must be imposed on prices. Speculation and monopoly must be fought against," the party said, while condemning "theft and pillaging" during the riots.
The General Union of Algerian Workers and Trade Minister Mustapha Benbada have accused producers and wholesalers of inflating prices ahead of new measures requiring them to systematically bill for their goods.
The unrest in the country, which is still under a state of emergency following a civil war with Islamist extremists in the 1990s, comes as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)'s food price index hit its highest level since it began in 1990.
About 75 percent of Algerians are under the age of 30, and 20 percent of the youth are unemployed, according to the International Monetary Fund. Many are well-qualified but cannot find work.
In neighbouring Tunisia, which has been rocked by similar protests over high unemployment, the country's main union on Saturday observed a minute's silence for at least five people who have died since demonstrations began there last month.
Date created : 2011-01-08