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Tuesday, February 15, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Algerian activists to keep heat on regime leaders 'until they fall'

CAIRO — Algeria is bracing for the kind of massive unrest that toppled the regime in Egypt.


Opposition sources said a massive protest campaign has been organized against the regime of Algerian President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika. They said the campaign, similar to that in Egypt, was comprised of both Islamists as well as pro-democracy activists.

"We're going to continue to demonstrate and to defy the authorities until they fall," opposition leader Said Sadi said.

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On Feb. 12, an estimated 10,000 Algerians took to the streets in violation of a regime ban on protests. The demonstrators clashed with police, who outnumbered the protesters by three to one, and more than 400 people were detained.

"Bouteflika out," the demonstrators chanted in downtown Algiers.

Algeria has been ruled by a nearly 20-year state of emergency that bans protests. But the opposition said the demonstration on Feb. 12 broke a psychological barrier that would enable even larger protests over the coming weeks.

"The fear is gone," another opposition figure, Ali Rachedi, said.

The sources said the Islamist opposition was well-organized and -financed. They said scores of buses, moving around police roadblocks, brought young Algerians from all parts of the capital to the demonstration site.

The opposition, encouraged by the fall of the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, has formed an umbrella group called the Coordination for Democratic Change in Algeria. The group has called for democratic reforms but did not insist that the 73-year-old Bouteflika resign.

For its part, the government, which suspended most train service to Algiers, played down the protests. Officials said only 1,000 people marched in Algiers.

"An attempt to organize a march was recorded today at May 1 Square by a crowd estimated at 250 people," the Algerian Interior Ministry said. "Fourteen people were detained and immediately released."

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