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Algeria Arrests 5 for Planning Attacks on Demonstrators

Algeria Arrests 5 for Planning Attacks on Demonstrators

Monday, 15 July, 2019 - 09:30
Algerian demonstrators. Reuters file photo
Algiers - Asharq Al-Awsat
The Algerian army has arrested five suspects for planning “attacks” against anti-government demonstrations, the defense ministry said on Sunday in reference to the popular movement that has swept the country since February 22.

They were arrested in “anti-terrorist” raids between July 3 and 7 in the Batna region southeast of the capital Algiers, the ministry said.

Its statement added that the suspects “planned attacks against peaceful protests across different parts of the country.”

Neither their full names nor the armed groups they work for were mentioned by the ministry.

Army Chief of Staff General Gaed Salah has warned that armed extremists could infiltrate demonstrators who forced the resignation of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika on April 2.

Opposition members have slammed his warnings, arguing that he was “exaggerating to discourage demonstrators” from taking to the street.

The gendarmerie and police have stepped up their presence at the entrances to large cities since the beginning of protests.

During their weekly mass rallies on Fridays, demonstrators are subject to thorough search, and security forces often prevent protesters from entering the capital for allegedly “security reasons.”

However, activists consider the strict security measures as a move to tighten the noose on them.

This has led to confrontations with Salah, who has verbally attacked his critics more than once by describing them as “followers of the gang” whose members are jailed, referring to civil and military officials under Bouteflika.

Dozens of demonstrators have been arrested, mainly for “threatening national unity” by brandishing the Berber flag during protests. The army says they pose a security threat, prompting denouncement by human rights organizations.

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