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Algerian opposition’s general strike mostly ignored

November 13, 1997

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ Algerian workers largely ignored a three-hour strike called Wednesday by political parties to protest allegedly rigged elections, keeping open shops, schools, banks and government offices in the insurgency-troubled nation.

The parties nevertheless vowed to go ahead with a banned nationwide protest on Thursday.

The General Union of Algerian Workers, which often sides with the military-backed government, had dismissed the opposition’s protest calls as rash.

Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said in a statement that the right to strike is ``recognized exclusively in employee relations″ and that all other motives, ``especially political, are completely illegal.″

Some workers in Tizi Ouzou, a Berber region town about 60 miles east of Algiers, stayed off the job in protest, Tizi Ouzou residents said by phone on condition of anonymity.

The party backing President Liamine Zeroual and its allies won most seats in the Oct. 23 municipal and regional elections. But opposition and some pro-government parties have protested what they called massive fraud.

Shortly after the local elections, about 30,000 people turned out for a peaceful march led by the opposition parties _ the largest protest since an Islamic-led insurgency began nearly six years ago.

The elections were the final stage of Zeroual’s plan to establish democratic legitimacy for his military-backed regime, which took power after canceling 1992 legislative elections that Muslim fundamentalist parties were expected to win.

An estimated 75,000 people have been killed in the ensuing violence, which has torn the country apart with frequent massacres and bombings.

In the latest bloodshed, the bodies of three women were found Wednesday in Bainem Forest, in hills west of the capital, hospital sources said on customary anonymity. Security forces had swept the area for the past month and a half, searching for arms caches of the violent Armed Islamic Group.

On Tuesday, a suspected Muslim militant killed a couple in the Caroubier district, on the coast east of the capital. Police then killed the attacker, hospital sources said. Army troops killed six other armed men in Algiers and in Boumerdes, 25 miles east of Algiers.

Two armed men killed an activist for the pro-government National Democratic Rally, the independent newspaper El Khabar reported Wednesday. Hamid Aoudjit was killed in Bouira, 35 miles east of the capital.

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