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Protesters in Algeria defy Covid-19 ban to mark second anniversary of uprising

Demonstrators marched in the town of Kherrata, which activists view as the birthplace of the Hirak movement
Protestors chanted anti-government slogans and held Algerian and Berber flags as they marked the second anniversary of the Hirak movement (AFP)

Hundreds of Algerians defied coronavirus restrictions and a ban on demonstrations to mark the second anniversary of the Hirak protests that led to the downfall of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Footage posted online showed protesters with Algerian and Berber flags in the centre of the town of Kherrata, seen by many as the Hirak movement's birthplace. 

Other protesters were filmed shouting Hirak slogans against the military and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Tuesday. 

Some demonstrators arrived in Kherrata from other regions on Monday evening for the rally, according to Algerian news outlets and social media users. 

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In 2019, Kherrata, just east of the capital Algiers, witnessed thousands protesting against Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term in office.

The Kherrata protest led to anti-government demonstrations against Bouteflika across Algeria, giving birth to the movement that demanded a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system that had been in place since the North African country's independence in 1962.

The rallies had continued weekly but stopped in March last year after the coronavirus pandemic reached Algeria.

Protests have picked up again in recent weeks, however, particularly in the restive region of Kabylie.

"We came to revive the Hirak that was stopped for health reasons. They didn't stop us. We stopped because we care for our people," Nassima, a protester, told Reuters.

"Today coronavirus is over and we will get the Hirak back."