Algerian police use tear gas against anti-government protesters
Police in Algiers have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators on the third straight day of protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's plan to run for a fifth term after six years of his near total absence from public life.
Officers also brought in a water cannon and rounded up several people as shopkeepers pulled down their shutters in the capital on Sunday, a journalist for the AFP news agency said.
Beginning on Friday, thousands had taken to the streets in Algiers and other Algerian cities calling on Bouteflika, 81, to abandon his bid to stand in the presidential election scheduled to be held on 18 April.
Bouteflika, in office since 1999, has been seen in public only a handful of times since suffering a stroke in 2013 and is due to head for Switzerland for a medical checkup.
"People do not want Bouteflika," the crowd on Sunday chanted at a protest called by an opposition group.
It began when a group of 50 people gathered at the Place Audin in the centre of Algiers.
Security forces, deployed since the early hours of the morning and backed by a police helicopter, evacuated the central square, prompting the demonstrators to head elsewhere.
Joined by hundreds of others they rallied along Didouche Mourad, a main shopping street which was closed to traffic and blocked by police, chanting "Algeria, free and democratic".
'Routine medical checks'
Since the ruling FLN party picked Bouteflika as its presidential candidate, several political parties, trade unions and business organisations have already said they would back him, and he is expected to win easily as the opposition remains weak and divided.
Strikes and protests over social and economic grievances are frequent in Algeria, but are generally localised and do not touch on national politics, the Reuters news agency reported.
More than a quarter of Algerians under 30 are unemployed, according to official figures, and many feel disconnected from a ruling elite made up of veteran fighters from Algeria's 1954-1962 independence war with France.
Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair, announced on 10 February that he will run for another term in office.
The president's office said that Bouteflika will travel to Switzerland on Sunday for "routine medical checks".
He has had a long battle with illness and has frequently flown to France for treatment.
Bouteflika is Algeria's longest-serving president and a veteran of its independence struggle.