Dozens of arrests in Algeria for ethnic violence | New

Security forces are holding at least 27 people after fighting between Berbers and Arabs in Ghardaia left 22 people dead.

Algerian security forces arrested dozens of people just two days after 22 people were killed in ethnic clashes between Berbers and Arabs in the south of the country.

The country’s prime minister said Thursday that at least 27 people had been arrested because of their involvement in the violence in the Guerara neighborhood of the city of Ghardaia. Some media estimate the number of people arrested by the security forces at 35.

Among those arrested was activist Kamal Fakhar al-Din, who campaigns for the rights of the Berber people. He was in a mosque in Ghardaia before security forces stormed it and arrested him and several other people.

Makeshift barricades made from tires and wheelbarrows have been erected between rival neighborhoods and set fire to homes, shops and cars, AFP news agency reported on Thursday.

People want the military to maintain security, but they are afraid because they don’t know what the security plan looks like.

Qassem Hajjaj, University of Ouargla

He also said 16 of the dead were from the Berber community and three were Arabs.

Ghardaïa is located in the M’zab Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the edge of the Sahara which has seen tensions between the two communities rise.

There have been intermittent clashes between the two communities since December 2013 over ownership and land ownership after the vandalism of a Berber shrine.

But this week’s violence was the worst to date, prompting President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to order the regional commander-in-chief to “supervise the actions of the security services and local authorities to restore public order”.

He also called on Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal to punish “all violations of the law with diligence and severity” and to ensure the safety of people and their property, his office said.

But some newspapers and analysts criticized the government’s response.

Qassem Hajjaj, a doctor of political science at the Algerian University of Ouargla, said the security measures announced fail to address the roots of the tensions.

“The Berbers have economic grievances and they have not been compensated for the vandalism that has been inflicted on their property in previous clashes,” he told Al Jazeera.

Berbers make up around 30 percent of Algeria’s population and have long considered themselves marginalized by the country’s dominant Arab culture.

“People want the army to maintain security, but they are afraid because they don’t know what the security plan looks like,” Hajjaj said.

He said residents of Ghardaia fear security measures will restrict their movement and restrict their rights.

“There is the fear of what will happen next. Local media, which are supposed to be an agent between security officials and residents, have not been informative at all. “

About Wesley V. Finley

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