January 9, 2011 / 2:04 PM / 10 years ago

Rioting over food prices subsides in Algeria

BOU ISMAIL, Algeria (Reuters) - Several Algerian towns that had experienced days of rioting were returning to normal on Sunday, local people said, after a flare-up of unrest triggered by a sharp rise in food prices.

Riot police confront protesters during clashes in Belcourd district of the capital Algiers January 7, 2011. REUTERS/Farouk Batiche

There were no reports of large-scale disturbances overnight, the first night of relative calm since rioting broke out on Wednesday in the capital and then spread to several cities across the energy-exporting country.

In its first response to the protests, in which two people were killed, the government said on Saturday it would cut the cost of some foodstuffs, and promised to do whatever was necessary to protect Algerians from rising food prices.

But some commentators warned the violence could resume.

“These riots have no chance of lasting as long as there is no political force behind them,” Mohamed Lagab, a political analyst and teacher at Algiers’ university, told Reuters.

However, he said further unrest was likely in coming weeks and months. “The youth is angry with the regime,” he added.

Dozens of municipal employees in the town of Bou Ismail, west of the capital Algiers, were early on Sunday clearing streets of stones and burned tires left by protesters, a Reuters reporter in the town said.

Up to 2,000 people attended the burial of Akriche Abdelfatah, 32, who was killed in clashes in the town of Bou Ismail, on Algeria’s Mediterranean coast, on Friday night.

“He was not among the rioters. He was there to protect his young brother and take him back home, “ Mohsen Hamadache, 21, told Reuters at Abdelfatah’s parents’ house.

“I lost a son. That’s enough. I call on all the youngsters to avoid violence. It is useless,” Abdelfatah’s father told Reuters at the end of the funeral.

Calm also returned to neighborhoods in Algiers, where on previous nights crowds of young men had thrown projectiles at police and ransacked shops and other buildings. Many traders had boarded up their stores since the unrest started.

“The shops are open. Everything here is normal today. I hope we will spend a quiet night,” said a resident in the working class Bab El Oued neighborhood in Algiers, where some of the most violent clashes took place.

Measures announced by the government on Saturday include a suspension of customs duties and value added tax on imports of sugar and cooking oil, whose soaring prices triggered the unrest.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed and Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton

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