Algeria: Thousands turn out for pro-reform protest

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Algiers, Feb 12 (AP) Thousands of people defied anofficial ban on demonstrations in the Algerian capital andgathered in the city centre for an pro-reform protest today,the day after weeks of mass protests in Egypt succeeded intoppling the president.

Organisers of the march estimated some 10,000 peoplehad flooded downtown Algiers, where they skirmished with riotpolice attempting to block off streets and disperse the crowd.

Some arrests were reported.

Protesters chanted slogans including "No to the policestate" and "Bouteflika out," a reference to PresidentAbdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999.

Under the country''s long-standing state of emergency,protests are banned in Algiers, but the government''s repeatedwarnings for people to stay out of the streets apparently fellon deaf ears.

The march comes at a sensitive time in Algeria just aday after the uprising in Egypt that forced Hosni Mubarak toabandon the presidency after 30 years. It also comes on theheels of a "people''s revolution" in neighbouring Tunisia thatpushed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile on Jan.

14.

The success of those uprisings looked bound to fuelthe hopes of those seeking change in Algeria, though many inthis conflict-scarred country fear any prospect of violencefollowing the brutal insurgency by Islamist extremists in the1990s that has left an estimated 200,000 dead.

Organised by the Coordination for Democratic Change inAlgeria, an umbrella group of human rights activists,unionists, lawyers and others, today''s march was aimed atpressing for reforms to push Algeria toward democracy anddidn''t include any specific call by organisers to oustBouteflika. (AP)

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