Security forces deployed in strength Amid fresh protests in Algeria--Tunisia face aftermath of riots US summons Tunisian ambassador--Amnesty calls on the Tunisian Gov't to allow protests without fear.
--Tunisia face aftermath of riots US summons Tunisian ambassador
--Amnesty calls on the Tunisian Gov't to allow protests without fear
Trouble in North Africa also dominated the Lebanese media on Saturday. Fresh rioting broke out in Algiers on Friday as police deployed around mosques and authorities suspended soccer championship matches after violent protests over food prices and unemployment. Riot police armed with tear gas and batons maintained a strong presence around the Algerian capital's main mosques. The official APS news agency said protesters ransacked government buildings, bank branches and post offices in "several eastern cities" overnight, including Constantine, Jijel, Setif and Bouira. "The unrest resumed in Ras El Oued on Friday morning ... Government buildings were seriously damaged such as (state-run gas utility) Sonelgaz, local councils, the tax authorities ... as well as several schools," APS said. Riots also hit on Friday afternoon the cities of Annaba, 500 km east of Algiers and Laghouat, 700 km south of Algiers, witnesses said. But cities with oil or gas facilities are calm for now.
Analysts say the riots are still far from dragging the oil and gas-producing nation back to the sort of political upheaval of the 1990s that caused 10 years of civil strife. Hundreds of youths clashed with police in several Algerian cities earlier this week, and ransacked stores in the capital. On Wednesday, riot police used tear gas to disperse youths in the Algiers neighborhood of Bab el-Oued, where the most violent of the protests occurred. Unemployment stands at about 10 percent, the government says. Independent organizations put it closer to 25 percent. Official data put inflation at 4.2 percent in November.
In Tunisia, four people were hospitalized with gunshot wounds after protesters clashed with police in a Tunisian town on Friday, a hospital source and victims' relatives said, in the latest in a spate of riots in the town of Rgeb, about 210 km (130 miles) west of the capita, Reuters reported. Tunisia's government says a minority of extremists trying to harm the country is behind the wave of unrest. Violent unrest has broken out in several Tunisian towns over the past three weeks. Protesters have said they are angered at a lack of jobs and say the government should invest more in raising living standards. Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has said the violent protests are unacceptable and could harm Tunisia's interests by discouraging investors and tourists who provide a large part of the country's revenues. Tunisian authorities say police have only used force where necessary to stop protesters endangering life and ransacking government buildings.
The international human rights organization Amnesty International called on the Tunisian authorities on Friday to allow Tunisians to peacefully protest without fear, reported the pan-Arab daily AL QUDS AL ARABI online on Friday. Amnesty condemned the recent crackdown by the authorities against the wave of protests that have followed a young Tunisian burning himself and later dying from his wounds. Two people have been killed in the demonstrations after Mohammed Bouazizi killed himself in the town of Sidi Bouzid when police seized his vehicle used for selling fruit. He died on January 4. Heavy protests throughout the province of Sidi Bouzid followed his funeral. Amnesty said that the authorities are responsible for maintaining public order but that they must not use this as a pretext to target people who exercise their rights to freedom of speech and who demonstrate in a peaceful manner. Amnesty called for a full investigation into the deaths of the protesters.
The United States has called in Tunisia's ambassador in Washington to receive a formal expression of concern about the protests, a State Department official said on Friday. Speaking a day before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to the Gulf to discuss expanding civil society freedoms across the Arab world, a U.S. State Department official said the department was concerned about rising unrest in Tunisia and Algeria. "We're certainly watching what's happening in both Tunisia and Algeria with a great deal of interest," a senior State Department official said. The State Department official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tunisia's ambassador was called in on Thursday to receive a formal expression of concern. "(We) expressed our concern about both what is happening with regard to the demonstrations and expressed and encouraged the Tunisian government to ensure that civil liberties are respected, including the freedom to peacefully assemble," the official said.
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|Publication:||The Weekly Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)|
|Date:||Jan 8, 2011|
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