Algerian protesters demand their ailing president steps down

Demonstrators in Algiers marched against Bouteflika's re-election bid for fifth term

Others stressed their intentions were peaceful.

Large-scale demonstrations - rarely seen in Algeria with its ubiquitous security services - against Bouteflika's re-election move began a week ago, but Friday saw the biggest turnout yet.

Thousands of protesters marched through Algeria's capital Friday against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term, undeterred by volleys of tear gas fired by police during the tense demonstration.

In a Facebook post, Salim Benkhedda said that his brother Hassan had participated in the mass protests near the presidential palace in central Algiers on Friday and blamed what he called the "ruling gang and its thugs" for the death.

Protest organisers issued an appeal for demonstrators to keep calm and stay 2 meters away from police cordons, to bring families and to clean up after the march. According to authorities around seven protesters and more than 50 officers were injured during the clashes with about 45 people arrested.

A sea of demonstrators, young and old, had thronged the streets after Friday prayers, chanting "Bye, bye Bouteflika!" and "Peaceful!"

Despite the prime minister saying last week that the place to voice opposition to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was at the ballot box in April's election, protests have not abated.

Thousands of Algerians demonstrated on Friday against plans by Bouteflika, who is now receiving medical treatment in Switzerland, to contest presidential polls slated for April 18.

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Calls to demonstrate have resonated with young Algerians, many of whom struggle for employment in a country where half the population is under 30.

Other rallies were held in Algeria's second and third cities, Oran and Constantine, as well as numerous other towns and cities, security sources said.

"It is no longer acceptable for them to hide behind a sick man incapable of running the country", said Aisaroun about Bouteflika and his entourage.

Nevertheless, his campaign manager said this week that Bouteflika would submit his candidacy documents for the April 18 election on Sunday, the final day for registration. Although Algiers confirmed he would be undergoing unspecified medical checks in Switzerland, there has been no comment on his departure.

Local television stations reported the protests but there was no live coverage.

Known for wearing a three-piece suit even in the north African nation's stifling heat, Bouteflika gained respect from many for his role in ending the war, which official figures indicate killed almost 200,000 people.

After a decade-long Islamist insurgency that Bouteflika stamped out early in his rule, Algerians have often tolerated a political system with little space for dissent as a price to pay for peace and stability.

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