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Saturday, July 4, 1998 Published at 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK


World: Middle East

Berbers protest at Matoub killing

Thousands mourned Lounes Matoub

There have been more protests in Algeria over the killing last week of one of the best-known Berber singers, Lounes Matoub.

A dissident faction of the Armed Islamic Group GIA said it was responsible for the killing on 25 June.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of the Berber town of Tizi-Ouzou, in the Kabylia region of northern Algeria, chanting anti-government slogans and singing Matoub's hits.

Shopkeepers lowered their blinds as a mark of respect. The demonstrators also protested against a new law which makes Arabic the only official language - a move supported by Islamic militants but opposed by the Berber community.

The Berber Cultural Movement has called for a general strike and more protest rallies on Sunday when the new law is due to come into effect.

More than 50,000 mourners attended Matoub's funeral last week. There were unprecedented scenes of public grief as the singer was buried in the garden of his home in the mountain village of Taourirt Moussa.

Matoub was shot dead when suspected Islamic militants tried to stop him at a roadblock, but demonstrators have accused the authorities of being responsible.

His songs criticised both the military-backed government and Islamic militants.



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