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Residents clash with police near Algerian capital

CHERAGA, Algeria (Reuters) – Algerian security forces used water cannon and tear gas on Tuesday to disperse rioting residents in a suburb of the capital who accused the authorities of failing to investigate properly the fatal stabbing of a local man.

Protesters clash with riot gendarmerie in Cheraga, on the outskirts of Algiers January 31, 2012. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Riots have become a regular occurrence in Algeria, a big exporter of energy to Europe, and it has many of the same problems, including unemployment and a lack of trust in the authorities, that last year sparked revolts in several of its neighbours.

Hundreds of people threw stones and petrol bombs at gendarmes, or paramilitary police, in Cheraga, about 10 km (six miles) west of Algiers. The protesters briefly blocked a main road through the suburb, Reuters journalists at the scene said.

The gendarmes forced residents off the main road, but only shifted the rioting into the Sidi Hassan neighbourhood, where the clashes were continuing.

The unrest in Algeria has so far been localised and uncoordinated, but analysts say the clashes could swell into a national movement, as happened in other north African countries rocked by last year’s “Arab Spring” upheavals.

Residents in Cheraga said they took to the streets to demand a thorough investigation into the murder of a local man who, they said, was stabbed to death by a gang. They said 10 suspects had been arrested but several of them had been released.

Some local people accused prosecutors of releasing them because they were from wealthy, well-connected families.

“We want justice to prevail,” said Nouredine Ait Ouareth, the father of the stabbed man. “The government must do its job and put in jail those who killed our son.”

“There is a suspect. He is well known, he is rich, and the boss of the gang. He has been released. This is not acceptable.”

There was no immediate comment by officials on the investigation or the clashes.

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Residents clash with police near Algerian capital