Thousands protest against Algeria’s ruling elite

Algerians gather during an anti-government demonstration in Algiers demanding the removal of the elite and prosecution of the corrupt on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 27 April 2019
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Thousands protest against Algeria’s ruling elite

  • President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down after 20 years in power this month
  • “The system must go” and “We are fed up with you,” read banners held up by protesters in central Algiers

ALGIERS: Algerians are massing for a 10th week of protests against their country’s ruling class, calling for the ex-president’s brother to be put on trial. Tens of thousands of protesters rallied peacefully in Algiers for a 10th consecutive Friday demanding the departure of Algeria’s ruling elite.
The protest took aim at Said Bouteflika, whose brother Abdelaziz Bouteflika was Algeria’s president for two decades until swelling protests forced him to resign instead of seeking a fifth term. A presidential election has been set for July 4 to choose the successor to Bouteflika, but protesters want his entire ruling entourage gone from power.
President Bouteflika stepped down on April 2, bowing to pressure from the army and weeks of demonstrations mainly by young people seeking change.
Said Bouteflika has been a particular focus of their anger, and protesters on Friday accused him of being the “leader of the gang.”
“The system must go” and “We are fed up with you,” read banners held up by protesters in central Algiers, scene of mass protests since Feb. 22.
There was no official count but Reuters reporters estimated the number of participants rising after Friday prayers to tens of thousands, like last week.
“The people want to uproot you,” a crowd chanted, addressing the elite which have ruled the oil- and gas-producing nation since independence from France in 1962.
“We want this system to leave and all the thieves to be judged,” said Zohra, a 55-year-old teacher who traveled some 350 km to attend the Algiers demonstration site with her 25-year-old son, Mohamed.
The protests, which have been largely peaceful, have continued as many demand the removal of the elite and prosecution of those they see as corrupt.
Bouteflika has been replaced by Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of Parliament, as interim president for 90 days until a presidential election on July 4.
He has been facing demands from the street to quit.
Algeria’s wealthiest businessman and four other tycoons close to Bouteflika were arrested this week as part of an anti-graft investigation, state media said. The investigation is intended to respond to demands to root out widespread corruption.
The arrests came after army chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah said he expected members of the ruling elite to be prosecuted for corruption.
Salah intervened when Bouteflika sought to extend his fourth term, declaring him unfit for office, in a bid to avoid prolonged turmoil.


Turkey sends weapons to opposition fighters in Syria

Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters get a major boost as Ankara backs them with fresh supplies of weaponry to help them hold their ground. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2019
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Turkey sends weapons to opposition fighters in Syria

  • Ankara signals readiness to preserve its influence in Syria’s Idlib province in northwestern region

AMMAN: Turkey has equipped an array of mainstream Syrian opposition fighters it backs with fresh supplies of weaponry to help them try to repel a major Russian-backed assault, senior opposition officials and opposition sources said on Saturday.
Russia is backing the Syrian army’s large aerial and ground assault as it seeks to gain control of the last big stretch of opposition-held territory in the northwest of the country.
Syria’s Bashar Assad launched the assault last month, saying fighters had breached an existing cease-fire, triggering a civilian exodus by bombarding Idlib and adjacent areas. It has been the biggest escalation since last summer between Assad and the opposition fighters in Idlib province and a belt of territory around it.
Ankara stepped up supplies in recent days after failing to persuade Russia in recent meetings of a joint working group that it should end its escalation to avert a major influx of refugees pouring into Turkey, two senior opposition figures said.

FASTFACT

Ankara stepped up supplies in recent days after failing to persuade Russia in recent meetings of a joint working group that it should end its escalation to avert a major influx of refugees pouring into Turkey.

In doing so Turkey signaled its readiness to preserve its influence in northwestern Syria, where it has beefed up its troop presence in a dozen military bases that were set up under a de-escalation deal with Russia, a senior opposition commander said. Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment.
Overnight, a Turkish military convoy arrived in a base in northern Hama near opposition-held Jabal Al-Zawiya, where Russian and Syrian jets have been pounding for weeks, a fighter and a witness said.
The delivery of dozens of armored vehicles, Grad rocket launchers, anti-tank guided missiles helped roll back some army gains and retake the strategically located town of Kfar Nabouda.