At least 27 people died in two road accidents in Algeria overnight, including when a bus smashed into a truck, local media reported Saturday.
In one crash on Friday night, a bus and truck collided on a road connecting Constantine to the Mediterranean port of Jijel in the northeast of the country, leaving 18 dead and 11 injured, the official APS news agency said.
Six children were among those killed.
In Bordj Badji Mokhtar, a Sahara desert region bordering Mali, nine people died when a 4×4 and a truck crashed, El Hayet TV channel reported, with poor visibility a factor.
Traffic accidents are common in the North African nation, often due to speeding.
Algeria has clamped down on an anti-government protest movement in the run-up to a parliamentary election on Saturday.
Mass demonstrations, known as the Hirak or movement in Arabic, swept longtime autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019.
The movement, which returned to the streets in February following an almost year-long break due to the coronavirus pandemic, has called for a boycott of the vote, but has been hit by a wave of arrests of its supporters.
Here is a timeline:
From February 2019, when the 82-year-old Bouteflika announces he will stand for a fifth term despite his failing health, mass protests are held every Friday drawing hundreds of thousands of people.
On April 2, Bouteflika resigns following two decades in power, after the powerful armed forces chief Ahmed Gaid Salah tells him to quit.
While crowds cheer his departure, they fill the streets again on April 5 to push for a total dismantling of the political system in place since independence from France in 1962.
On April 9, upper house speaker Abdelkader Bensalah is named interim president, but opposition parties refuse to confirm his nomination.
Army gets tough
Gaid Salah emerges as the key powerbroker. On May 20, he rejects the demands of protesters that an election planned for July 4 be postponed and that regime stalwarts step down.
But the constitutional council cancels the planned election on June 2 citing a lack of candidates.
On September 18, the military hardens its position, ordering police to block demonstrators from outside Algiers entering the capital.
Bouteflika allies jailed
On September 25, a military court sentences Bouteflika’s brother Said and two former intelligence chiefs to 15 years in prison for “conspiring” against the state.
In December, former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, both close to Bouteflika, are sentenced to 15 years and 12 years in jail respectively in corruption trials.
New president’s weak mandate
On December 12, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a former prime minister under Bouteflika, wins a presidential election on an official turnout of less than 40 percent.
The next day, Tebboune calls for talks with protesters, who nevertheless remain on the streets.
On December 23, Gaid Salah dies from a heart attack, aged 79.
Pandemic halts protests
On January 31, 2020, Algerians flood the streets of the capital to celebrate the 50th consecutive Friday demonstration.
However, on March 20 the streets of Algiers are empty for the first Friday since the start of the protest movement as the Covid pandemic takes hold.
Algerians approve a revised constitution in a November 1 referendum marked by record low turnout.
The plebiscite takes place in the absence of Tebboune, who is hospitalised overseas after contracting Covid-19.
He returns to Algeria but goes back to Germany for surgery following post-Covid complications and does not return to Algiers until February 12.
Thousands of Algerians rally on February 16 in the northern town of Kherrata, seen as the cradle of the protests.
Two days later, Tebboune pardons dozens of jailed Hirak activists, announces early elections and says he will carry out a government reshuffle.
On February 22, seen as the second anniversary of the mass protests, thousands demonstrate in Algiers and other cities ending a nearly year-long break.
On May 9, the interior ministry says Hirak organisers will have to advise authorities of protests in advance, effectively amounting to a ban.
The authorities have since put down protests in Algiers and elsewhere, and detained scores of demonstrators.
Algeria voted Saturday in a parliamentary election overshadowed by a crackdown on a long-running protest movement that has campaigned for a mass boycott.
Pro-government parties have urged a big turnout for the “crucial vote” which they hope will restore stability after two years of turmoil since the forced resignation of veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The protest movement, which had held weekly demonstrations for reform until they were effectively banned last month, has denounced the election as a “sham” that betrays the hopes of the hundreds of thousands of Algerians whose protests forced Bouteflika from power.
Seven leading protest movement figures were arrested ahead of polling day while police deployed heavily in the capital Algiers to preempt any attempt to rally.
Polls close at 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) and results are not expected before the coming days.
Authorities are hoping for a solid turnout, but the two previous national votes since Bouteflika stepped down — a presidential election and a constitutional referendum — both saw record low voting after the protest movement urged a boycott.
In Algiers, only a trickle of people were seen entering polling stations on Saturday morning, with most people getting on with their daily lives.
“I’ve never voted, and this time it’s no different. I don’t believe it would change anything,” said Fatiha, a shopkeeper in her 50s.
Hamid, a 60-year-old office manager, said he had voted for the sake of “stability”.
“We are surrounded by danger. Those who reject this election aren’t putting forward any realistic alternative,” he said.
In the opposition stronghold of Kabylie, a mainly Berber region east of the capital, most polling stations in the main cities of Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou remained closed, said Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH).
Boycott calls from the region’s two main parties were almost universally respected in the previous two votes since Bouteflika’s ouster.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was elected on an official turnout of less than 40 in late 2019, put a brave face on the likely low legislative turnout.
“For me, it’s not the turnout percentage that’s important, it’s whether the lawmakers that the people elect have sufficient legitimacy,” the president said after casting his vote at a polling station on the outskirts of Algiers.
More than 13,000 candidates are standing for the 407 seats in parliament, more than half listed as “independent”.
– ‘Repressive atmosphere’ – The LADDH vice-president deplored the crackdown that preceded the vote.
The “repressive atmosphere and the restrictions placed on human rights and freedoms mean these elections have no democratic value”, Salhi said.
The protest movement has urged boycotts of all national polls since it mobilised hundreds of thousands of people in 2019 to force Bouteflika and his cronies from power, after the ailing president launched a bid for a fifth term.
It returned to the streets in February after an almost-year-long break caused by the Covid pandemic.
But the government stepped up its crackdown last month, blocking protests and detaining hundreds of activists who have defied new restrictions on public gatherings.
Late Thursday, leading opposition figure Karim Tabbou, independent journalist Khaled Drareni and the director of a pro-reform radio station, Ihsane El Kadi, were among seven people detained. The three were eventually released on Friday night, a campaign group said.
“These arrests mark a chilling escalation in the Algerian authorities’ clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression and association,” Amnesty International said in a statement, reporting more than 200 people were in detention in connection with the protest movement.
– Old guard and economic woes – The president claims to have responded to the protesters’ main demands “in record time”, and says those still protesting are “counter-revolutionaries” in the pay of “foreign parties”.
The protest movement says Tebboune’s past role as premier under Bouteflika confirms its narrative that the old guard, in power since Algeria’s 1962 independence from France, retains an undiluted grip on power.
Established parties linked to Bouteflika’s rule — the National Liberation Front (FLN) and the Democratic National Rally (RND) — are seen as likely to lose seats.
Islamist parties are hoping to take advantage — but with their vote split between five rival factions, they may struggle to make real gains.
Africa’s fourth-largest economy is heavily dependent on oil revenues, which have slumped in the face of the global economic slowdown. Unemployment stands at more than 12 percent, according to World Bank figures.
It has also been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 3,500 lives in the country, according to the health ministry.
World Rugby’s reach across Africa has increased as Algeria and Burundi become full members of the International Federation.
This follows the approval of the two countries’ membership at the virtual meeting of the World Rugby Council held on Wednesday.
World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont said, “We are very pleased to welcome Algeria and Burundi as full members, reflecting their commitment and progress in achieving the relevant criteria, thanks to the many talented coaches, administrators, and volunteers involved in growing the sport.
“We are dedicated to the sustainable global growth of our sport, combined with strong governance and there is no doubt that Africa is a key region with huge potential for the future development of rugby.”
“Africa is home to the current men’s Rugby World Cup winners and we will continue to work closely with Rugby Africa to ensure we provide emerging unions such as Algeria and Burundi with continuous support and a solid framework to further accelerate the growth of the sport across the region,” he added
Both nations were successful after achieving all the necessary criteria and their elevation to full member status saw World Rugby’s membership stand at 128, including 109 full members and 19 associate members.
The announcement comes after the launch of the global body’s new Strategic Plan 2021-25 in April, which provides a framework for the continued development and expansion of rugby, supporting unions and regions in building capacity and capability, as the international federation strives to continue the journey towards becoming a global sport for all.
In his reaction, President of Rugby Africa, Khaled Babbou, said, “I am delighted to welcome the Burundian and Algerian rugby unions as full members of World Rugby, bringing the total number of African member unions of World Rugby to 20.
“Rugby in Africa is growing rapidly and our strategic focus on youth and women’s rugby is evidence of this dynamic growth.”
“In 2020, we recorded more than 350,000 registered female players in Africa, up from 50,000 in 2012. This is the result of a firm collective commitment from all African unions. I wish to congratulate Mr Albert Havyarimana, President of the Fédération Burundaise de Rugby and Mr Abdelkader Sofian Ben Hassen, President of the Fédération Algérienne de Rugby for their dedication and relentless efforts culminating in this recognition today.
“Both countries are in the running for Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification for the first time in their history and the entire African rugby family wishes them good luck in this new chapter,” Babbou added.
Burundi currently has 2,750 registered players and has been an associate member of World Rugby since 2004, while Algeria has over 80 men’s and 40 women’s teams and became an associate member in 2019.
Both countries will enter the qualification journey for Rugby World Cup 2023 as they are set to compete in the Rugby Africa Cup 2021.
The competition begins with a repechage event in June before the group phase sees four pools of three teams each playing a round-robin tournament at a single venue per pool.
Burundi will compete in the Rugby Africa Cup repechage in Burkina Faso from 5-13 June which also includes Burkina Faso and Cameroon.
The winner of the repechage will join Rugby Africa Cup Pool D in Tunisia in July together with Tunisia and Zimbabwe, and Algeria will play in the Rugby Africa Cup Pool C in Kampala against Ghana and hosts Uganda from 10-18 July.
The best two teams from each pool will qualify for the Rugby Africa Cup 2022, which serves as the final round of the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifier for Africa.
The eventual winner of the Rugby Africa Cup in August 2022 will qualify for RWC 2023 as Africa 1, entering group A alongside hosts France, while the runner-up will enter the final qualification tournament for another chance at qualifying.
Increasing the reach and diversity of the international federation’s membership represents a key element of World Rugby’s global growth strategy, ensuring that upon meeting the relevant criteria unions are provided with a framework and support to continue their growth and development as part of the World Rugby family.
Both the Fédération Algérienne de Rugby and the Fédération Burundaise de Rugby are full members of Rugby Africa and have sustainable women’s rugby and development programmes in place as they continue to grow as rugby nations.
The UN voiced alarm Tuesday at reports of sexual violence in detention and disproportionate use of force against protesters in Algeria, calling for investigations into all alleged abuses.
The United Nations human rights office said it had received numerous reports of abuses in Algeria since weekly mass demonstrations by the Hirak pro-democracy movement resumed in February.
“We are increasingly concerned about the situation in Algeria where the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and participation in public affairs continue to be under attack,” spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.
“Over the past two months, activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens peacefully expressing dissent have continued to face criminal prosecution,” he said.
The Hirak protest movement was sparked in February 2019 over president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.
The ailing autocrat was forced to step down weeks later, but the Hirak has continued its demonstrations, demanding a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.
Marches were suspended for around a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but protesters have returned to the streets since February 13 as the movement regains momentum.
Since then, Colville said the rights office had received “sustained reports of unnecessary and disproportionate force against peaceful protesters, as well as continuing arrests.”
“Hundreds of protesters, or anyone alleged by security forces to be a demonstrator, are being arbitrarily arrested,” he said, adding that around 70 people were reportedly currently detained “for exercising their legitimate human rights.”
Some protesters had meanwhile reportedly only been released from detention after being forced to sign a document vowing to halt their participation in the demonstrations.
“New allegations of physical and sexual violence in detention have also been surfacing in recent days,” Colville said.
Authorities had prevented a number of marches from occurring and were blocking access to the places where demonstrations were taking place, he said.
“We urge the Algerian authorities to stop using violence to disperse peaceful demonstrations and to halt arbitrary arrests and detention of individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly,” Colville said.
He decried that the Hirak activists were being “prosecuted on the basis of overly broad laws, and called on authorities to fulfil a presidential pardon announced in February to members of the movement.
“We reiterate our call on the authorities to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of human rights violations, to hold accountable those responsible, and to ensure that victims have access to redress.”
A leading Algerian opposition activist has been detained and is to appear before prosecutors on Thursday, his lawyer said, weeks ahead of elections he and other opponents have pledged to boycott.
Karim Tabbou, a key figure in demonstrations that forced longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in 2019, was handed a one-year suspended sentence last year for “undermining state security”.
His detention comes as the pro-democracy protest movement known as Hirak has sought to regain some of the momenta it lost when it suspended street rallies just over a year ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tabbou was summoned to the police station on Wednesday evening to respond to a complaint filed against him by Bouzid Lazhari, the president of the National Council for Human Rights, an official body.
The 47-year-old was to appear before a prosecutor on Thursday, lawyer Me Ali Fellah Benali said on social media.
“Algeria’s youth is determined to fight for their right to a dignified life,” Tabbou told AFP ahead of his detention.
He became one of the most recognisable leaders at mass demonstrations that broke out in February 2019.
The Hirak protest movement was sparked in February 2019 over Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.
The ailing autocrat was forced to step down weeks later, but the Hirak has continued its demonstrations, demanding a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.
Since the group’s second anniversary in February, thousands have returned to the streets, defying a coronavirus ban on gatherings.
Ordinary Algerians ‘fed up’
Tabbou said his own party, the Democratic Social Union, was now “the largest political party” in the North African country, despite it being unregistered by the authorities.
His detention comes as activists warn of an increasing climate of repression, with political opponents and journalists targeted in the run-up to the legislative elections on June 12.
Earlier this month, security forces arrested eight people they said were linked to the Hirak movement over an allegedly foreign-financed criminal association.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune this month warned Hirak activists against “non-innocent activities” that “attempt to hinder the democratic process”.
Authorities say the protest movement is being infiltrated by Islamist activists who are trying to drag it towards violence.
President Tebboune served as a prime minister under Bouteflika and won a presidential election in December 2019, in a poll that was boycotted by the protest movement. Official data put the turnout at less than 40 percent.
In further moves dismissed by the protest movement as window dressing, Tebboune oversaw a constitutional referendum late last year and brought the legislative elections forward, in a bid to soothe the political and socioeconomic crisis.
“This election does not concern us,” activist Tabbou told AFP.
“The regime mobilised colossal resources to hold a false presidential election, a false referendum — and now it organises false legislative elections,” he said.
Ordinary Algerians were fed up, he said. “We see the country as a barracks”.
Prominent journalist Khaled Drareni, a symbol of the struggle for a free press in Algeria, is to face a retrial after the supreme court accepted his lawyers’ cassation appeal on Thursday.
“The supreme court overturned the decision. The cassation appeal of the defence was accepted, so Khaled Drareni will be retried,” Abdelghani Badi, a member of the defence team, told AFP.
“I hope that in this new trial, there will be no pressure on the judiciary, as has been the case before,” he said.
During Drareni’s trial in September, his defence team said there had been “pressure (from the executive) on judges”.
Drareni was arrested in Algiers in March 2020 while covering the pro-democracy Hirak protest movement, which swept former strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019 and carried on demonstrations to demand a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s 1962 independence from France.
The 40-year-old correspondent for French-language TV5 Monde and press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was provisionally released last month after almost a year in prison along with dozens of other activists under presidential pardons issued ahead of the Hirak’s second anniversary.
On Thursday, Drareni told AFP he and his defence team had hoped for an end to the proceedings against him but expected the retrial.
“We hope… the new trial… will correct the two trials that I underwent in the first instance and in the appeals court,” he said.
The founder of the Casbah Tribune online news site was sentenced on appeal in September to two years in jail on charges of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “endangering national unity”.
– Press freedom fight –
The harsh sentence for a media figure outraged Drareni’s fellow journalists and sparked an international support campaign.
He was also accused of having criticised Algeria’s political system on Facebook and of publishing a statement by a coalition of political parties calling for a general strike, according to RSF.
Authorities have charged Drareni with having worked for foreign media outlets without gaining press accreditation — an opaque bureaucratic procedure in Algeria — as well as being an “informer” in the pay of “foreign embassies”.
The former television presenter’s case has become a symbol of the fight for freedom of the press and expression in Algeria, at a time when authorities have cracked down on dissent, detaining and prosecuting activists, opposition figures, journalists and social media users.
Despite the recent release of some 40 political prisoners, around 30 people remain in custody on charges linked to the Hirak uprising or civil liberties, according to prisoners’ rights group CNLD.
RSF ranked Algeria 146 out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, a 27-place drop from 2015.
French President Emmanuel Macron has ruled out issuing an official apology for abuses in Algeria, his office said Wednesday, ahead of a major report on how France is facing up to its colonial past in the country.
There will “no repentance nor apologies” for the occupation of Algeria or the bloody eight-year war that ended French rule, Macron’s office said, adding that the French leader would instead take part in “symbolic acts” aimed at promoting reconciliation.
The atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence continue to strain relations between the two countries six decades later.
Macron, the first president born after the colonial period, has gone further than any of his predecessors in recognising French crimes in Algeria.
Later Wednesday, a historian commissioned by Macron last year with assessing “the progress made by France on the memory of the colonisation of Algeria and the Algerian war,” will submit his findings.
Benjamin Stora’s report is not however expected to recommend that France issue an apology but rather suggest ways of shedding light on one of the darker chapters of French history and propose ways of promoting healing.
The presidency said Macron would take part in three days of commemorations next year marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Algerian war.
Each day will be dedicated to a different group that suffered in the conflict, presidential aides added.
– Simmering resentment –
No other event in France’s colonial history had as deep an impact on the national psyche as the Algerian war.
More than one million French conscripts saw service in the conflict, which claimed hundreds of thousands of Algerian lives.
After it ended hundreds of thousands of European settlers fled to France, a wrenching exodus that sowed the seeds of lingering anti-Arab sentiment.
Tens of thousands of Algerians who fought alongside French forces also crossed the Mediterranean after the war to escape nationalist lynch mobs.
While campaigning for president in 2017 Macron caused a sensation by declaring that the colonisation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.
A year later, he acknowledged that France had instigated a system that facilitated torture during the Algerian war.
It was a rare admission in a country where the colonisation of Algeria was long seen as benign.
“In French political culture, anti-colonialism has always been an extremely fringe movement,” historian Sylvie Thenault told AFP.
“There is a profound conviction that the French Republic is a force for good that thwarts the possibility of criticising what is done in the name of the Republic,” she added.
During the war French forces cracked down on independence fighters and sympathisers. A French general later admitted to the use of torture.
Algerian nationalists also targeted civilians and mistreated prisoners during a complex conflict characterised by guerrilla warfare.
France’s actions in Algeria left a deep well of bitterness and resentment that has been blamed by some experts for the drift of some second- and third-generation immigrants into extremism.
In a speech in October on combatting radicalisation, Macron acknowledged that France’s colonial past and the Algerian war had “fed resentment” against France.
Speaking to Jeune Afrique magazine in November, Macron described France as being “locked in a sort of pendulum between two stances: apologising and repentance on the one hand and denial and pride on the other.
“As for myself I would like truth and reconciliation,” he said.
Algeria will begin rolling out the contentious Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine developed by Russia in January, the government said late Wednesday.
The country had signed a “mutual agreement with a Russian laboratory for acquisition of the coronavirus vaccine from January”, said Communications Minister Ammar Belhimer.
Authorities will receive an initial shipment of 500,000 doses, finance ministry director general Abdelaziz Fayed told local broadcaster Echorouk.
The announcement came a day after the elderly president of the North African nation, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, returned home following a two-month absence in Germany where he was treated for a coronavirus infection.
Moscow announced the registration of Sputnik V back in August after it had completed just the second phase of trials on under 100 volunteers.
It has raised concerns from scientists at home and abroad who said the decision was premature without wider clinical trials and the publication of scientific results.
Russia began its own vaccination campaign on December 5, beginning with at-risk workers.
Some analysts have viewed the fast-track registration and the early launch of mass vaccination as a bid by Russia to bolster geopolitical influence.
Algeria has recorded nearly 100,000 Covid-19 infections and more than 2,750 deaths from the disease, according to the health ministry.
Couscous, the Berber dish beloved across northern Africa’s Maghreb region and beyond, Wednesday joined the UN list of the world’s intangible cultural heritage.
The countries that submitted the listing to UNESCO — Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania — may have their differences, but their common love of the grain staple runs deep.
“Couscous, present at every social or cultural event, is at once ordinary and special,” their joint presentation argued.
“Ordinary because of the frequency of its use in a family setting, and special because of the unifying and propitiatory role it plays at convivial community occasions at which food is shared.”
Bland by itself, couscous is served with meat or fish, spicey stews, chickpeas and vegetables in a mouth-watering variety of dishes.
Moroccan restaurant owner Hicham Hazzoum was among the couscous connoisseurs who applauded UNESCO’s honour.
“I think we are the only Arab countries to have a high regard for this dish,” he said. “It is impossible not to eat it every Friday.
“Moroccans are crazy about couscous and even children love it. It shows that the couscous flame will never go out.”
Across the region, couscous — also known as Seksu, Kusksi and Kseksu — is as elementary as rice or noodles are to Asian cuisine, the staple without which no meal is complete.
Arabic dictionaries have documented “Kuskusi” since the 19th century, though it is known to be far older.
The regional pride in couscous found full expression in the countries’ joint nomination for the “knowledge, know-how and practices pertaining to the production and consumption of couscous”.
“Women and men, young and old, sedentary and nomadic, from rural or urban communities or from immigrant backgrounds all identify with this element,” it gushed.
“The ethos of couscous is the expression of community life.”
Tunisian chef Taieb Bouhadra said his country took pride in its different types of couscous.
“There are many varieties, almost every house has its own grain,” said the owner of El Ali restaurant, in the old city of Tunis.
Couscous is prepared from wheat or barley, and sometimes from maize, millet or sorghum, which is ground into semolina.
This is rolled into pellets which are sieved and later soaked and repeatedly steamed.
“Women, in particular, play a fundamental role in the preparation and consumption of the dish, and in practising and preserving the related symbolic value systems,” said the paper.
The girls learn not only the techniques but also “the songs, gestures, characteristic oral expressions and ritual organisation” that go along with the process.
Algerian chef Rabah Ourrad said about making his couscous dishes: “I didn’t learn this in a cooking school. It’s decades of observing the mother, the sisters and all North African women who are experts in this.”
In an often fractious region, there were hopes the joint bid would strengthen a sense of common identity.
After Algeria four years ago sparked the ire of regional rival Morocco by planning its own couscous nomination, the 2020 bid was a cross-Maghreb initiative.
Ourrad also passionately argued that couscous could serve as the region’s great unifier.
Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia all have their particular styles, he said, but adding: “We are all the same people, and the couscous is Maghrebi, the couscous is ours.”
Not everyone was fully on board with the mushy couscous diplomacy, including Hazzoum, the Moroccan restaurant manager.
“I say this with all due respect to other countries,” he told AFP, “but Moroccan couscous is the best.”
Algeria has seen a number of accidents involving military aircraft in recent years.
In January, a fighter jet crashed on a night training exercise in the east of the North African country, killing both of its crew.
In April 2018, an Ilyushin Il-76 heavy transport aircraft crashed south of Algiers with the loss of all 257 people on board, most of them military personnel, the deadliest air accident in Algerian history.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria have lost 1-0 to African champions, Algeria in a friendly match played in Klagenfurt, Austria on Friday night.
Missing four of their regular players, Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Ayodele-Aribo, Oghenekaro Etebo and marksman Victor Osimhen for different reasons, Nigeria had to start with an unfamiliar midfield trio of Oluwasemilogo Ajayi, debutant Frank Onyeka and Alex Iwobi, with left back Zaidu Sanusi getting Coach Gernot Rohr’s nod ahead of regular Jamilu Collins to earn his first cap.
The Fennecs started powerfully and quickly forced a corner kick in the third minute, which was bundled to safety. Three minutes later, the African champions got the lead when Ramy Bensebaini reacted faster to a loose ball from another corner kick.
The goal was actually a reflection of the state of flow of the game, as the Algerians reacted faster and controlled the ball better. Iwobi, latching onto the ball as Samuel Chukwueze cut inside from the right, saw his shot blocked. Okoye saved brilliantly from Farid Boulaya in the 20th minute, and two minutes later Alex Iwobi nearly restored parity but his shot from 22 yards screamed narrowly past Alexandre Oukidja and the far post.
Iwobi again enabled a flow from the middle in the 31st minute but Samuel Kalu’s shot was wild. Five minutes later, Maduka Okoye flung himself impressively to the right to parry a free-kick by Said Benrahma. The impressive Sanusi and Kalu had shots saved and a Samuel Kalu in-swinger missed everyone in the box as the first half came to a close.
The Eagles came into the second half with determination to add more grit to their game, Mikel Agu coming in for Onyeka. On the hour, Tyronne Ebuehi’s pile-driver from the edge of the box flew past the goal with Oukidja beaten.
Six minutes from time, Okoye again came up big, tipping away a tricky lob by substitute Fares. The Eagles got an opportunity to level at the death, but substitute Kelechi Iheanacho’s dipping free-kick from the right flew narrowly over the sticks.
Left-back Zaidu Sanusi, right back Kevin Akpoguma and midfielders Frank Onyeka and Samson Tijani all won their first caps and will look to add to these when the Eagles take on Tunisia in an der Glan on Tuesday.
Friday’s encounter was the first ever friendly game between both countries, as all their previous 21 games were at competitive level.