Algerian police use tear gas as rare anti-government protests enter third day

Algerian protesters take to the streets in the capital Algiers to demonstrate against the country's ailing president's bid for a fifth term on February 24, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2019
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Algerian police use tear gas as rare anti-government protests enter third day

  • Thousands have taken to the streets of the capital and other cities since Friday calling on the authorities to abandon plans for Bouteflika to stand election

ALGIERS: Algerian police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators on a third straight day of rare political protests against plans for rarely seen President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to extend his 20-year rule by seeking a fifth term.
Thousands have taken to the streets of the capital and other cities since Friday calling on the authorities to abandon plans for Bouteflika, 81, to stand in a presidential election scheduled to be held on April 18.
Bouteflika, in office since 1999, suffered a stroke in 2013. He has since been seen in public only a handful of times and has given no public speeches in years.
His opponents say there is no evidence he is in fit health to lead the country, which they say is being ruled in his name by advisers. The authorities say he still has a firm grip on affairs despite the rarity of his appearances.
“People do not want Bouteflika,” the crowd chanted at a protest called by an opposition group, Mouwatana.
A Reuters journalist saw tear gas being fired to disperse crowds.
Since the ruling FLN party picked Bouteflika as its presidential candidate, several political parties, trade unions and business organizations have already said they would back him. A weak and divided opposition faces high hurdles in mounting an electoral challenge.
Bouteflika has not directly addressed the protests. The authorities announced earlier this week that he would be traveling to Geneva for unspecified medical checks, although there was no official confirmation he had left.
State media quoted a letter in Bouteflika’s name read out at a government oil and gas industry event in the southern town of Adrar as saying: “Continuity is the best option for Algeria.”
FLN leader Moad Bouchareb dismissed the protests.
“To those who are dreaming of change I say ‘Have nice dreams,’” he said in televised comments in the western city of Oran on Saturday.
Supporters of Bouteflika have emphasised the risk of unrest. Algerians have bitter memories of a decade of civil war in the 1990s in which 200,000 people were killed. The war was triggered after the army canceled an election that Islamists were poised to win in 1991.
“Do you want Algeria to go back to years of tears and blood?” said the leader of the powerful UGTA labor union, Abdelmadjid Sidi Said in televised comments.
Strikes and protests over social and economic grievances are frequent in Algeria, but have generally been localized, rather than touching on national politics.
Algeria saw major street unrest during the 2011 “Arab Spring” that brought down the rulers of North African neighbors Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. But Algerian security forces managed to contain it without Bouteflika’s grip on power loosening.
Lower oil prices in recent years have hurt Algeria’s economy, reigniting discontent. More than a quarter of Algerians under 30 are unemployed, according to official figures, and many feel disconnected from a ruling elite made up of veteran fighters from Algeria’s 1954-1962 independence war with France.


Daesh defeated, ‘caliphate’ eliminated: US-backed SDF

Updated 27 min 24 sec ago
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Daesh defeated, ‘caliphate’ eliminated: US-backed SDF

  • The victory marks the end of the militants’ self-declared “caliphate”
  • The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks

BEIRUT: Daesh has been defeated at its final shred of territory of Baghouz in Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday, announcing the end of its self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.
The SDF declared the “total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate,” Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, wrote on Twitter.
“Baghouz has been liberated. The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished,” he wrote.
The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks.
“We renew our pledge to continue the war and to pursue their remnants until their complete elimination,” he wrote.
Though the defeat of Daesh at Baghouz ends the group’s grip over the extremist quasi-state straddling Syria and Iraq that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat.
Some of its fighters still hold out in Syria’s remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again.
The US believes the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq. He stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims.