October 14, 2014 / 11:40 AM / in 3 years

Algerian police march in rare protest in capital

ALGIERS (Reuters) - About 300 Algerian police officers marched through Algiers on Tuesday in a rare public protest by security forces to show solidarity with a police demonstration over working conditions and riots in a southern city.

Protests by public service employees are common in Algeria but security forces rarely take to the streets.

The officers, from a riot unit, marched in their blue uniforms toward the downtown area of the capital, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene.

Police officers had already taken to the streets in the southern Algerian desert town of Ghardaia on Monday to demonstrate after clashes in the region between Arabs and Berbers.

Riots broke out between the two communities near Ghardaia, with two people killed and businesses torched, the official APS news agency and local media reported.

Youths from the two communities threw stones and petrol bombs and also set fire to several businesses, according to APS and Algerian media reports. Several policemen were also injured.

The area had been tense since police arrested a group of young men last week for suspected involvement in previous clashes.

Ghadaia, around 600 km (370 miles) from Algiers, is home to both Arabs and the Mozabite Berber community, which speaks its own language and follows its own school of Islam. The area has often been the scene of clashes as Arabs and Mozabites compete over jobs, houses and land.

Similar violence took place in the area last year, resulting in the deaths of at least five people.

National Police Chief Abdelghani Hamel visited the province on Monday in a bid to restore calm after hundreds of policemen staged a march in Ghardaia to protest against attacks on them by gangs of youths.

Algeria’s security forces fought a war with Islamist militants in the 1990s in which 200,000 people were killed and the protests are unlikely to cause any security fallout for the OPEC country.

But since the 2011 revolts in neighbouring Tunisia, Libya and Eqypt, they have been under pressure to contain any social unrest in Algeria, even though many people are wary of turmoil after the earlier conflict.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed and Larbi Louafi; Editing by Patrick Markey and Angus MacSwan

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