Algiers – More than 100 civilians were injured in clashes in the Algerian capital during Friday’s mass protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office, medical sources said.
Some were wounded by stones and rubber bullets while others suffered from suffocation as a result of tear gas fired by security forces, the sources at Mustapha Pacha hospital in Algiers said on Saturday.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Algiers for the third Friday running to demonstrate against Bouteflika’s re-election bid. Large protests were also held in the provinces of Batna, Bouira, Skikda and M’Sila.
The Museum of Antiquities in Algiers was stormed on Friday by a group of protesters. Algerian state television said a fire broke out inside the building and some of its artefacts were stolen.
Some 195 people were detained by security forces, according to the Directorate of National Security, which added that 112 police officers were injured during the protests.
The protests came a day after 82-year-old Bouteflika, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, warned of "chaos" and "infiltration" by unspecified local and foreign elements.
Last week, he promised a series of reforms, including constitutional amendments and an early presidential vote, if re-elected.
In a surprise move on Saturday in order to curb the protests, the Algerian higher education ministry brought forward the university spring vacation to begin on Sunday until April 4.
Usually, the vacation is two weeks and begins on March 21 every year.
Thousands of Algerian students have taken part in the protests in several parts of the country.
Bouteflika, who is wheelchair-bound, travelled to Switzerland on February 24 for medical check-ups.
He is "under a permanent threat to life" due to degradation of his neurological reflexes, the Tribune de Genève newspaper reported without citing a source.
Bouteflika is North Africa’s only president who survived the Arab Spring revolts.
At the time, his government contained pro-democracy protests in Algeria with promises of reform and pay rise, financed by the country’s revenues from oil and gas.
In recent years, Algeria’s finances have been hurt by the global drop in oil prices, prompting cuts in state subsidies.