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Reports: Third person killed in Algerian riots; food prices drop

By the CNN Wire Staff
Protestors clash with riot police on January 7, 2011 in central Oran, 430 kilometres (270 miles) west of Algiers.
Protestors clash with riot police on January 7, 2011 in central Oran, 430 kilometres (270 miles) west of Algiers.
  • State-run media: The Algerian government reduces duties on sugar and oil
  • Interior minister: A person is found in a hotel set on fire by rioters
  • Protests erupted last week amid rising food prices
  • Similar protests have taken place in neighboring Tunisia
  • Algeria
  • Tunisia

(CNN) -- At least three people have been killed and 300 others injured in riots that erupted across Algeria amid rising food prices and a housing crisis, according to state-run media.

The protests began last week over spiraling costs of basic food items, including milk, oil and sugar. Some staples are subsidized by the government.

To curb the escalating prices of sugar and oil, the government slashed duties for sugar and oil by 41%, Algerie Press Service reported Sunday. The suspension and exemption from customs duties and taxes until August 31, according to APS.

Meanwhile, the government reports a third person has died from the rioting: "I can confirm the deaths of three young people in M'sila, Tipasa and Boumerdes," Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia told the television channel Canal Algerie, according to APS.

"In the first two provinces, the dead corpses were found during the riots. Investigations are underway to determine the causes." The third person was found burned in a hotel set on fire by the rioters, he added.

Similar protests, some violent, have erupted in neighboring Tunisia, where at least four people have died. Human rights groups have said the Tunisian government has cracked down on demonstrators with force.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrests and disappearances of bloggers and online activists across a number of Tunisian cities.

The worldwide press freedom organization said police arrested the bloggers to question them about hacking into government websites. One of those arrested was Hamadi Kaloutcha, who who has not been heard from since his arrest at 6 a.m. Friday, the group said.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has said Washington was monitoring the situation in both countries. The Tunisian ambassador was summoned to the State Department.

He said the United States was also concerned about the reports of cyber intrusion and was urging everyone -- from the government to activists -- to respect freedom of expression.

Crowley said it was "difficult" to say whether the protests in Tunisia were related to those in Algeria.

"We're not going to say that there's kind of an overlapping dynamic across the two countries," he said. "But we continue to review this and both engage the government in Algeria and as well as look after the safety of our own citizens."

Adding fuel to the protesters' anger are the high rates of unemployment and housing issues, socio-economic problems that have been festering for some time in Algeria.

The government has blamed the rising prices and other issues on the global economic crisis.