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Tuesday, March 5, 2011     GET REAL

Algerian security forces, follow Egypt's lead, protest for better terms

CAIRO — Algeria's security forces have been protesting for better salaries and conditions.


In an unusual move, hundreds of members of the so-called Village Guard have been demonstrating in Algiers. The members have called on the regime of President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika to improve wages and benefits, including pensions.

"Their demands are legitimate," Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said.

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But the Interior Ministry, amid rising civil unrest, has deployed thousands of security forces to stop the Village Guard from establishing a protest camp in Algiers.

Officials, including Ouyahia, said the Village Guard was using the revolution in Egypt as a model for social change.

"Some of the protesters were being paid to transform this into Tahrir Square," Ouyahia, referring to the protest headquarters in Cairo, said.

The Village Guard, a force of more than 100,000, has been cited as a leading element in Algeria's counter-insurgency strategy. The security force, established nearly 20 years ago, has been deployed in rural areas of Algeria used by Al Qaida and its allies.

Officers have called on the Interior Ministry to approve a salary increase and full pension rights for the Village Guard. They have also called for compensation for those dismissed from the service.

The Interior Ministry has been mulling proposals to phase out the Village Guard. Officials said Interior Minister Daho Ould was examining a recommendation to incorporate up to two-thirds of the officers in the Village Guard into the Algerian Army. The rest would be offered to serve in the security forces under the Interior Ministry.

"We hope to integrate the majority of the Village Guard in the police," Ould said.

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