Algerian police auxiliaries march for pay rises
7/9/2012 9:50:06 PM -
ALGIERS (AFP) - Thousands of Algerian police auxiliaries, who once helped in the fight against armed Islamist groups, tried on Monday to march on the capital to demand pay rises and other benefits but were blocked by police, organisers said.
Around 40,000 men reached Birkhadem outside Algiers by early afternoon but hundreds of policemen prevented them from moving further, one of the marchers, Lahlou Aliouat, said.
The protesters started at 0300 GMT from the city of Blida south of Algiers, and marched 48 kilometres (30 miles) in scorching heat.
Marchers tried to overrun police barricades on the road between Blida and the capital but police used water cannon to push them back, Aliouat said, adding that 50-60 people were hurt in the confrontations.
"We want the same benefits as the troops and the security forces who are taking part in the struggle" against armed groups, Aliouat told AFP.
The auxiliaries, known in Algeria as "communal guards," were set up in 1994 to bolster local police in villages across the country where authorities were locked in a deadly confrontation with armed Islamist groups.
The auxiliary corps, numbering 93,000 men, is demanding the same benefits as policemen and troops in Algeria.
Specifically they want pay rises, round-the-clock health insurance to replace the current eight-hour coverage they get while working, and retirement after 15 years of active duty.
They are also demanding the option of joining the ranks of the police or the gendarmerie, a French-styled paramilitary police unit.
In March 2011, some 10,000 communal guards flooded the streets of Algiers, with similar demands, in defiance of a ban on demonstrations.
"Our objective is to reach the president's headquarters," Aliouat said on Monday.