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Algeria orders early university break amid youth-led protests

Student-led protests have challenged the rule of ailing 82-year-old Bouteflika [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 March, 2019

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Algerian authorities have ordered an early start to university holidays amid widespread protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term.

Algerian authorities have ordered an early start to university holidays amid widespread protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term.

The ministry of education made the announcement on Saturday, the state-run APS news agency reported.

The statement said spring break would begin on Sunday - 10 days earlier than was planned.

Authorities gave no reason for the move but it was likely an attempt to hamper student-led protests that have challenged the rule of ailing 82-year-old Bouteflika.

Tens of thousands protested across Algeria on Friday in the biggest rallies yet against the veteran leader's bid for a fifth term in April polls.

A march in the capital Algiers was slowed to a near-crawl by the huge numbers taking part, swelled by women marking International Women's Day and chanting "No fifth term - hey, Bouteflika!"

The police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse those who tried to force their way through a police cordon that was blocking access to a road leading towards the presidency.

The unrest left 112 members of the security forces injured, according to police, who said they had arrested 195 people suspected of "vandalism".

In a message released on Thursday night, Bouteflika warned that troublemakers may try to infiltrate the demonstrations.

Bouteflika flagged the risk of a return to the "national tragedy" of Algeria's decade-long civil war in the 1990s and of the "crises and tragedies caused by terrorism" in neighbouring countries.

Bouteflika, in power since 1999, has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

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