Algeria lifts state of emergency

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

ALGIERS/PARIS - Algeria’s cabinet Tuesday adopted a decision to lift the country’s 19-year-old state of emergency.

The government said the order would come into force “without delay” in the North African nation that borders Libya.

Earlier this month, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said the state of emergency, which he maintains was used to fight Islamists and not to keep the population in check, would be lifted “in the very near future”.

His statement was seen as a bid to hold onto power and also defuse tensions as thousands of Algerians took to the streets demanding an immediate lifting of the state of emergency, democratic reform and a change of regime.

The protests in Algeria began one day after mass demonstrations forced Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down after 30 years in power Feb 11, and one month after demonstrators across the border in Tunisia toppled their longtime leader, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

The tumult in those countries has rattled the government in Algeria, where many people fear that large-scale protests could plunge the country into bloodshed.

Algeria, a vast desert country that is rich in oil and gas but most of whose 35 million people live in poverty, experienced several days of rioting in January over food prices and unemployment, in which at least three people were killed.

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