'Bye, bye Bouteflika!' | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 03, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:41 AM, March 03, 2019

'Bye, bye Bouteflika!'

Tens of thousands protest in Algeria

Tens of thousands of people in cities across Algeria called on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to leave office on Friday in the country's biggest anti-government demonstrations since the Arab Spring eight years ago.

The protests were mostly peaceful but as crowds receded by late afternoon, scuffles broke out in the capital Algiers between police and protesters near the presidential palace, witnesses said.

One person died, according to a local official. Local media said it was a 60-year-old man who suffered a heart attack.

Several protesters and policemen were wounded during clashes in Algiers, state television said. News website TSA put the number of wounded at 63, citing official figures. It said 45 people were detained.

A sea of demonstrators, young and old, had thronged the streets after Friday prayers, chanting "Bye, bye Bouteflika!" and "Peaceful! Peaceful!" Many were draped in the Algerian flag and carried placards and banners.

Large scale demonstrations - rarely seen in Algeria - against plans for Bouteflika to seek a fifth term in power in April elections began a week ago, but Friday saw the biggest turnout yet.

The 81-year-old suffered a stroke in 2013 and has been seen in public only a few times since. His re-election bid stoked resentment among Algerians who believe he is not fit to lead.

Large crowds also gathered in the cities of Oran, Constantine, Setif, Tizi Ouzou and Bouira, residents and local media said.

Bouteflika, who will turn 82 on Saturday, has not directly addressed the protests. The authorities said last week he would travel to Geneva for unspecified medical checks, although there was no official confirmation he had travelled.

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