Algerian police clash with rioters in housing row

Wed Mar 23, 2011 1:46pm EDT
 
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ALGIERS (Reuters) - Police in Algeria's capital used teargas on Wednesday to disperse a crowd of young men who threw stones and petrol bombs to try to stop bulldozers demolishing dozens of illegally built homes.

Clashes over housing are fairly common in Algeria but Wednesday's riot was unusually violent and took place at a time when Algerian authorities are wary of any sign of contagion from the unrest elsewhere in the Arab world.

A police spokesman said 50 officers were injured in the clashes during which rioters also set fire to a car and threw bricks down on police from nearby rooftops.

The confrontation, in the Oued Koriche suburb of Algiers, began when local officials ordered the demolition of more than 30 houses built on publicly-owned land without a permit.

Police in protective gear formed a shield around bulldozers which moved in to demolish the houses, but they came under attack from about 100 young men.

After a few hours all the illegal buildings were knocked down and the confrontation ended.

"The police intervened with calm and professionalism," the police spokesman said. "Our preoccupation was to keep the roads clear and ensure the safety of people passing by."

"We lament the fact that 50 police officers were hurt ... There were no civilians injured."

The shortage of housing is a major problem in Algeria, especially in the capital where the buildings are packed tightly together on hills sloping down to the Mediterranean Sea and where there is fierce competition for living space.

(Reporting by Larbi Louafi; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Jon Hemming)

 
<p>Riot police confront protesters during clashes in Oued Koriche, Algiers March 23, 2011. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi</p>