The government proclaimed a state of emergency today as police fought demonstrators who have rioted in the streets for three days to protest rising prices.
President Chadli Bendjedid said all civil administrative and security services have been placed under military command, but the measures did not bring an immediate halt to the rioting. Arsonists set fire to several government buildings.
The decision was required by “grave developments in the situation in Algiers,” Bendjedid said in a statement. He said the state of emergency was invoked under the constitution.
On Wednesday evening, fire destroyed the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the government-sponsored soccer betting agency, the town hall and numerous shops.
Protesters set several more fires today, including one at a Ministry of Education building. Looters were seen leaving the building, and official files were blowing around in the wind outside.
Tear Gas Grenades
Police anti-riot squads used force against groups of youths that rioted in the streets of the capital this morning to protest the 15% annual inflation rate.
One police unit armed with shields and riot sticks fired tear gas grenades at a group of youngsters gathered near Algiers University. Previously, the anti-riot squads had remained in the background during two days of unprecedented rioting in the city.
It was not known today whether anyone was hurt during the rioting. An unknown number of youths were arrested on charges of looting. First estimates of the damage to the city exceeded $100 million.
Under the government’s economic reform program, prices for basic food staples have risen dramatically. A pound of beef sells for about $11.40 or more, and in some places drinking water is sold for about $4 a gallon.