Algeria celebrates 50 years of independence

Fireworks light over a port as Algeria marks 50 years of independence on Thursday. (Anis Belghoul, AP)

Fireworks light over a port as Algeria marks 50 years of independence on Thursday. (Anis Belghoul, AP)

Flanked by senior officials President Bouteflika laid a wreath at a monument commemorating the moujahideen, or freedom fighters, who died during the 1954 to 1962 liberation war, which led to independence on July 5, 1962.

A year-long programme of events kicked off with a patriotic show Wednesday night in the Algiers suburb of Sidi Fredj, which was the landing point for the French forces who occupied Algeria in 1830.

The festivities were set to continue Thursday with another liberation-themed show by around 9 000 young people in the capital's main stadium.

But the efforts to stir up patriotic fervour appeared to fall short of the mark among the country's youth.

Police in Algiers shut down a demonstration by several dozen young people protesting unemployment, according to one of the organizers.

"We were about 70 or 80 people. Most of us were arrested. Some of us were injured," Tahar Belabes, spokesperson for the national committee for the protection of the rights of the unemployed, said.

The past year and a half has seen several such protests in the only North African country not to have been part of the Arab Spring.

The government has responded by relaxing some laws that restricted basic rights in the name of fighting terrorism.

One of the main criticisms levelled at the state is its failure to modernise the economy, which is heavily dependent on oil and gas.

Allal M, a 69-year-old taxi driver, who spent 18 months in prison during the independence war for distributing tracts, admitted that "there have been errors and incompetence in the running of the country.""But the main thing is that we are free and that our children can get an education." – Sapa-dpa

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