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Monday, January 10, 2011     GET REAL

Food prices hike fights sparks rioting in Algeria

CAIRO — Algeria is battling food riots throughout the North African state.


The rioting was sparked in numerous cities in Algeria in protest of the sharp rise in food prices. Reports from Algeria cited two dead and 400 injured in clashes between police and demonstrators.

"More than 300 police and gendarmes have been wounded, while on the other side there are fewer than 100 hurt," Algerian Interior Minister Dahou Oul Kablia said.

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Over the last few months, food prices have risen to what officials acknowledged as record levels. They included a 150 percent increase in the price of sugar and 75 percent rise in cooking oil.

The regime of President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika has vowed to reduce prices on staples by mid-January. Officials said the government has already held talks with food importers.

"Those behind the rise in basic food items have been greedy merchants," Algerian Trade Minister Mustafa Bin Badeh said.

The worst clashes were said to have taken place in Algiers. More than 100 people were injured in fighting between stone-throwing young men and anti-riot police. Police were said to have used tear gas and batons to disperse the violent protests, which began in the western city of Wehran on Jan. 5.

The rioters also targeted government buildings, police stations, banks and foreign companies. In one attack, the franchise for the French automobile manufacturer Renault was torched.

"Nothing can cast doubt on the resolute will of the state, under the direction of the president of the republic, to intervene whenever necessary to preserve the purchasing power of citizens in the face of any price increase," a government statement said.

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