ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) – Thousands of protesters marched through Algeria's capital Friday against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term, undeterred by volleys of tear gas fired by police during the tense demonstration.
Such anti-government protests are unusual in Algeria, where questions are growing about Bouteflika's fitness for office after 2013.
Police helicopters circled overhead in Algiers after midday. Protesters hoped for a strong signal of public discontent to the gas-rich North African country's secretive leadership before the April 18 presidential election.
Riot police vans lined the boulevard leading to the presidential headquarters and deployed around the road.
Soon after crowds started gathering, police fired tear gas on a group of a few hundred coming from the Belcourt neighborhood on the city's Mediterranean shore. It was unclear what prompted the tear gas.
But thousands later marched through Algiers.
Demonstrations were also planned in other Algerian regions, organized via social networks.
Protest organizers issued an appeal for demonstrators to keep calm and stay 2 meters (yards) away from police cordons, to bring families and clean up after the market.
It's the latest of several protests in recent days against Bouteflika's candidacy for the April 18 election.
The crowds were not targeting Bouteflika, but they were not targeting him, and they, in their power, struggled to be successful. They feel Algeria's leadership has neglected unemployment, corruption and poverty and ignored public concerns.
They did not express support for a single challenger in the election, though opposition candidate Ali Benflis expressed support for the market, calling Bouteflika's presidential bid a "humiliation for the Algerian people."
Bouteflika himself, who is 81, is undergoing medical checks in Switzerland.
Bouteflika is credited with reconciling Algerians after a decade of civil war. He has been in power since 1999 and overwhelmingly won re-election in 2014, and most Algerians will likely vote for him again.