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Thousands Protest Arabic-Only Law

June 30, 1998

TIZI-OUZOU, Algeria (AP) _ Several thousand people marched against Algeria’s Arabic-only language law Tuesday in the country’s ethnic Berber capital that has been the scene of several days of rioting.

Police reported no incidents during the rally in Tizi-Ouzou, 60 miles east of Algiers, the nation’s capital. The region has been shaken by unrest since Muslim militants assassinated popular singer Lounes Matoub last week.

Police blocked a march against the language law by several hundred people in Algiers on Tuesday.

Four people died in violence that raged in several cities inhabited by Berbers, a Muslim people with their own language, Berber, also known as Tamazight.

The law also would effectively ban from official use other languages including French, which is widely used in this former French colony.

Matoub was an outspoken defender of Berber culture.

A leaflet circulated in Algiers claiming responsibility for Matoub’s slaying on Thursday was believed to be from the Armed Islamic Group _ the most violent movement in a 6-year-old Muslim insurgency that has left more than 75,000 people dead.

Many see the Arabic-only law, which goes into effect Sunday, as an effort by the military-backed government to appease supporters of Islamic movements.

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