Algeria arrests 27 suspected separatists over 'terrorism'

Authorities said they were thought to be members of the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie

Algerian Prime Minister Aymen Benabderrahmane surrounded by bodyguards outside parliament. AFP
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Algerian police said on Monday that they had arrested 27 people suspected of belonging to a separatist group that Algiers considers a "terrorist" organisation.

They were arrested over the previous 48 hours in a case involving "undermining national unity, harming public order and inciting a gathering". The 27 are suspected of belonging to the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK), authorities said in a statement.

Twenty-five people were arrested in Kherrata, where clashes between protesters and police broke out last week after a march in support of prisoners of conscience was banned.

The statement said security forces were wounded during the clashes in the town, which is located in the traditionally restive north-eastern Kabylie region.

Two other people were arrested in an area around 60 kilometres away, according to the statement.

Items including "military clothing, bladed weapons" and MAK material were found in the individuals' homes, it added.

The suspects were trying to "sow strife and fear among citizens and reactivate sleeper cells of this terrorist organisation, on the order of foreign parties", the statement said.

Algeria's Human Rights League on Sunday called for the release of more than 20 people whom it said had been arrested.

Separately, the league said that authorities had arrested "journalist and human rights defender Hassan Bouras" on Monday and searched his home in northwestern El Bayadh.

It said it did not know the reason for Bouras's arrest.

Bouras, who is also a league member, had been sentenced to a year in prison in 2016 for "insulting a judge, a public forces member and a government body".

According to prisoners' rights group CNLD, around 200 people are in jail in connection with the pro-democracy protest movement that has shaken the country sporadically since 2019, or over individual freedoms.

Kherrata is seen as the cradle of the protests.

Updated: September 07, 2021, 8:56 AM