AFP / Algiers
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Algerian capital yesterday in defiance of a heavy security presence to demand the ouster of the country’s army chief.
Demonstrators gathered near the capital’s main post office square — the epicentre of Algeria’s protest movement that forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April — this time calling for the removal of General Ahmed Gaid Salah.
“The people want the fall of Gaid Salah,” they chanted, referring to the de facto strongman in post-Bouteflika Algeria.
“Take us all to prison, the people will not stop.”
Yesterday’s demonstration marked Algeria’s 31st consecutive week of rallies, but protesters faced a heavy deployment of security forces in the city centre and along its main avenues. The army chief on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital, in a bid to stem the flow of people attending anti-regime rallies.
The tougher line on demonstrations comes after interim president Abdelkader Bensalah on Sunday announced a December 12 date for a presidential election to fill the vacuum left by Bouteflika’s departure.
Gaid Salah has led the push for polls by the end of 2019, despite mass protests demanding political reforms and the removal of the former president’s loyalists — including Gaid Salah himself — before any vote.
In the runup to the rally, police made several arrests near the square, AFP photographers said.
Police also stopped vehicles on main streets in the capital and an AFP journalist saw officers in plainclothes ask numerous people for identity papers, before some were led off to nearby vans.
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