Riots erupt across Algeria over prices, jobs

Riots erupt across Algeria over prices, jobs
# 07 January 2011 02:29 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Riots erupted in Algeria over food prices, housing and lack of work, with youths in the capital stoning a police station, torching tyres and destroying cars, witnesses and media said Thursday, APA reports quoting website.
Violence flared in Algiers late Wednesday after weeks of protests across the oil-rich country that come as similar unrest linked to unemployment and living costs has shaken neighbouring Tunisia since mid-December.
Clashes erupted after dark in the capital’s Bab El Oued district when dozens of youths stoned a police station and torched a car dealership, destroying about a dozen vehicles, an AFP photographer said.
"They hurled stones at the anti-riot police in the area. A group of youths wrecked a bus shelter," a resident told AFP by telephone.
Protesters also barricaded a road with flaming tyres to prevent security forces from arriving, in a similar pattern to another demonstration in the western suburb of Cheraga.
Dozens of youths also set alight tyres, barricaded roads with tree trunks and hurled objects at drivers in a protest Wednesday in Oran, 430 kilometres (270 miles) west of the capital.
Youths forced open a warehouse to steal sacks of flour, the Oran Daily reported Thursday. The price of bread and flour has been rising amid a shortage of wheat, while oil and sugar coasts have also soared.
Demonstrators also blocked roads on Monday in Tipaza, 70 kilometres west of the capital, in protest against rising food prices and difficult living conditions.
There have been similar protests, some turning violent and resulting in injuries, across the country for months, focussed on lack of social housing and allegations of corruption, according to media reports.
This comes as authorities have been razing illegal housing settlements.
In an attempt to calm the rising anger, Commerce Minister Mustapha Benbada said Wednesday the food price rises were not unique to Algeria but part of a worldwide trend.
"The state will continue to subsidise essential items," he said.
About 75 percent of Algerians are under the age of 30, and 20 percent of the youth are unemployed, according to the International Monetary Fund.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika pledged in 2009 to build a million apartments not replaced since a 2003 earthquake, while growth of the population -- which has tripled to 35.6 million since independence from France in 1962 -- has added to strains on the availability of housing.
The difficulties lead many young Algerians to try to enter Europe illegally, with dozens of failed attempts every month although there are no official statistics.
"I fear that the situation will explode," Research Centre of Applied Economy for Development sociologist Mohammed Saib Musette told AFP.
"There is a contagion effect, mainly when we think about what has happened with Tunisia," he said, although Algeria was wealthier than its neighbour because of its oil and gas reserves, and its people had more freedoms.
A wave of demonstrations against unemployment and the costs of living erupted in Tunisia on December 17 after a university student set himself alight in protest. He died of his wounds on Tuesday.
Sociologist Nureddine Hakiki, professor at the University of Algeria, said the government needed to end its state aid. "The youth have an easy life and they are demanding more," Hakiki said.