Thousands protest in Algeria capital, break police cordon

Algiers (AFP) –


Around 2,000 people protested in the Algerian capital against the interim government Friday, defying a significant police presence just days before the mandate of its president expires, witnesses said.

Dozens of police vans were stationed near the main post office, a symbolic building for the protest movement now in its 20th week, an AFP journalist reported.

Ranks of police officers wearing helmets and equipped with shields tried to block the protesters and confine them to a pavement around 10 metres (yards) from the post office esplanade.

But amid shouts of "Long live Algeria! Peacefully, our claims are legitimate!", hundreds of the protesters successfully forced their way through the police cordon and headed for the esplanade.

Around a dozen protesters were arrested and placed in police vans, witnesses said.

Mass protests forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in early April, but demonstrators have kept up the pressure, calling for other regime insiders to step aside and demanding independent institutions be established to oversee fresh elections.

"Go, liberate Algeria!", shouted the protesters, waving the national flag.

Other chants glorified the martyrs of Algeria's war of independence, on what is the country's independence day.

The protest comes two days after interim President Abdelkader Bensalah called for a national dialogue, in which he promised the state and army would remain neutral.

Bensalah's mandate is due to expire on Tuesday and he warned on Wednesday against the risk of the country falling into a constitutional vacuum.

"Wherever you are, we are - we will not stop!" the protesters shouted, referring to the government.

They chanted slogans against any elections organised by a "mafia gang".