Soldiers, Tanks Patrol Algeria after Campaign Riots
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ Soldiers patrolled major cities and tanks stood at gathering points Thursday but the government indicated a continued commitment to multiparty elections despite the state of siege declared this week.
Two days after riots set off by Muslim fundamentalists that left 12 dead, Algiers was calm, with about 10 tanks posted in each of the two large squares where major protests had taken place. A curfew was in place for the second day.
Thursday afternoon marks the start of the Muslim weekend, making it unclear whether the many shuttered shops were heeding a call by the opposition Islamic Salvation Front for a general strike. The strike call - first made two weeks ago - had been widely ignored on previous days.
The Islamic Front is made up mainly of Sunni Muslims who want Chadli Bendjedid out as president and seek to establish an Islamic state.
At least seven people were killed and 189 injured in Algiers on Tuesday when police battled supporters of the front. About 700 others were treated for tear gas inhalation.
Hospital sources said Thursday that five people died in other cities. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity.
About 40 parties had been vying in parliamentary elections that had been set for June 27 and would have marked the first multiparty national balloting since Algeria won its independence from France in 1962.
The presidential decree declaring a state of emergency postponed the elections for at least four months.
Benjedid also accepted the resignation of Premier Mouloud Hamrouche. His successor, Sid Ahmed Ghozali, was working to name a new Cabinet.
Under the state of siege, the military has wide-ranging police powers, including detaining and investigating individuals suspected of fomenting violence, searching residences and prohibiting gatherings deemed dangerous.
Foes of the government accused it of abandoning its commitment to democracy. Benjedid’s National Liberation Front, the only party to govern Algeria since independence, denied that.
″The exceptional measures taken by the president of the republic were made necessary by the development of the situation that grips the country,″ the party said in a statement Thursday.
It said the measures ″waylaid, unfortunately, the democratic process that was heading toward a democratic regime based on multipartyism and the free choice of the citizens.″
The appointment of Ghozali was seen as a pacifying gesture to the opposition and a move toward stability.
Ghozali, 54, a veteran bureaucrat and diplomat, previously served as former minister, finance minister and energy minister. His selection seemed an effort to bring a steady hand to the volatile politics in this North African Arab nation of more than 25 million people.
Benjedid reportedly told Ghozali to consult with as many political parties as possible in forming a new government.
Speculation abounded that Chadli was considering some kind of power-sharing deal with the Islamic Front, possibly forming a Cabinet that included Islamic moderates and advocates of political reform.