Ethnic clashes in southern Algeria cause 23 deaths

Tuareg and Arabs fight each other with sabers:

On Tuesday, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) in Göttingen reported that at least 23 people were killed within a week in ethnic clashes between Tuareg and Arabs in southern Algeria. "We are very concerned about the ongoing violence," said Ulrich Delius, the STP's Africa-consultant. "There must be fast and independent investigations regarding the background of the conflict – and those are responsible must be held accountable." The fighting between the Tuareg and members of the Arabic Barabiche people broke out in the border town of Bordj Badji Mojhtar on Tuesday night last week. The town is located about 2,200 kilometers to the south of the capital of Algiers, close to the border to Mali. Eyewitnesses informed the STP that the fighting was partly carried out with sabers.

The violence continues, although the Algerian authorities were able to initiate a peace agreement between the warring ethnic groups on Friday – and had deployed about 1,500 riot police and other security forces to the embattled city. Tuareg people complained that the Algerian police had seemed reluctant to protect them. On Monday, two people were killed – after six people died in clashes on Sunday night. More than 50 people were injured in the fighting. Several shops were looted or set on fire. The police arrested 40 people who are said to be responsible for the outbreak of violence.

The bloody clashes broke out following the murder of a Touareg who had tried to open a business in an Arabic neighborhood. Most probably, the conflict is also based on the fact that both the Barabiche and the Tuareg are trying to control the lucrative trade with neighboring Mali. "The situation of the civilian population in southern Algeria has also become much worse due to the crisis in Mali," said Delius. Thus, tourism is on a decline for fear of abductions by radical Islamists. This has led to a further impoverishment of the already significantly neglected local population.

The increasing militarization of southern Algeria is another problematic issue. "Algeria has deployed more and more elite units and other security forces to the south of the country, in order to prevent Muslim extremists from attacking the Algerian oil and gas industry – but the country is not trying to stop the ongoing impoverishment of the population," criticized Delius.