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Algeria: scores arrested after mob lynches man wrongly accused of starting wildfires 

August 18, 2021 at 1:29 pm

Smokes and flames rise from the wildfire in Algeria on 12 August 2021 [Mousaab Rouibi/Anadolu Agency]

At least 61 people have been arrested by Algerian police following the lynching of a man wrongly accused of starting deadly wildfires in the country last week. Some suspects have also been charged with damaging public and police property.

Djamel Ben Ismail, 38, had reportedly turned himself in at a police station last week after hearing that he stood accused of starting the fires. According to a post on his Twitter account, he is said to have travelled to the affected area to help put the fires out.

Video footage was used to identify some of the suspects involved in the lynching. According to judicial police official Mohamed Chagor, the footage showed an angry mob pulling the victim out of a police van in “collective hysteria”. The mob beat him and then burned him to death in a town in the predominantly Amazighi region of Kabyle. Some police officers were injured trying to help Ben Ismail, but they stopped short of firing warning shots to avoid making the situation worse, said Chagor.

Ben Ismail, described by his friends and family as an artist, was buried the following day in his home town of Khemis Miliana, west of the Kabyle capital Tizi-Ouzou. A crowd-funding donation page has since been set up to help his family.

The fires started last Monday and have killed at least 47 residents and 28 soldiers in addition to destroying olive groves and livestock. Wildfires have also been experienced by neighbouring Tunisia and Morocco, and have spread quickly during a record-breaking heatwave. Those in Algeria are believed by the authorities to have been started by arsonists associated with the Kabyle regional independence movement.

At least 65 people have been killed by the fires that have hit Algeria - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

At least 65 people have been killed by the fires that have hit Algeria – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

READ: Algeria experts warn of massive floods after deadly wildfires