Thousands of protesters have rallied in central Algeria over a lack of jobs and corruption by government officials, local media has reported.
Nearly 10,000 people gathered in the central square of the desert town of Ouargla on Thursday, chanting “the people want the downfall of corruption” and anti-government slogans.
The demonstrators claim the government is marginalising the sparsely populate south and central parts of the vast North African country, even though all the oil and gas installations are located there.
Ouargla province has a flourishing oil industry but many in the capital, also called Ouargla, are chronically unemployed and do not benefit from Algeria’s wealth, which stems from natural resources.
Demonstrators in the Sahara town were calling for jobs and development of the central and southern regions, saying the demands were strictly social and that they were not aimed at bringing down the government.
Former Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) activist and Islamist leader Ali Belhadj was stopped by security forces from entering Ouargla city to join the protesters, local media reported.
Demonstrators were told to disperse but they refused and said they intended to remain in place.
Earlier this week, the government in Algiers, the capital, promised to address youth unemployment in the south in a bid to quell the growing anger.