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Algerian army chief moves to limit protest movement

Demonstrators gesture and shout slogans during a protest rejecting Algerian election announcement for December, in Algiers, Algeria September 17, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria’s powerful army chief has ordered buses and cars bringing protesters into the capital to be stopped and seized, the latest in a series of measures aimed at quelling big weekly demonstrations demanding a purge of the old ruling elite.

“We have instructed the gendarmerie to ... stop buses and cars that are used to this end; to seize and impose fines on their owners,” Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Saleh said on Wednesday.

Official tolerance for the protests which forced veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in April and have continued since to demand a total overthrow of the ruling elite has been waning for months.

While the government has made more concessions to the protesters by detaining and charging numerous senior figures close to Bouteflika with corruption, it has also intensified policing at demonstrations and arresting prominent activists.

On Sunday, interim president Abdelkader Bensalah announced that a long-delayed election would be held in December, something the army has been publicly pushing for against the wishes of the protest movement.

Hundreds of demonstrators on Tuesday raised placards and chanted slogans denouncing the move, maintaining their position that no election can be free or fair while Algeria’s ruling old guard remain in place.

Reporting By Lamine Chikhi; writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Giles Elgood