Algiers, Asharq Al-Awsat—At least 25 people have been killed during ethnic and sectarian clashes between Arabs and Berbers in southern Algeria, the worst of their kind since 2013, state media reported on Wednesday.
According to the Algérie Presse Service (APS), 19 people died on Tuesday and six on Wednesday during clashes between ethnic Mozabite Berbers and Arabs from the Chaamba tribe in the southern desert town of Ghardaia, which lies some 400 miles (600 kilometers) south of Algiers.
Algeria’s Echorouk TV channel said the youngest among the dead was a male of 15. Thirty people were reported wounded.
Residents shot at each other during the clashes, and houses, shops, and cars were burned and destroyed, the channel said.
According to the APS, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika held an emergency meeting on Wednesday with Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Field Marshall Ahmed Caid Saleh, and Minister of State for the Presidency Ahmed Ouweihi to assess the situation.
Riot police were dispatched to Ghardaia and fired teargas against the crowds in the town in order contain the unrest. A statement by the Armed Forces on Wednesday night said it would “intervene” in Ghardaia order to calm the situation but did not give details. Sources say army units will be sent to the town.
Mozabites and Chaambas have long coexisted in Ghardaia, which dates back to the 11th century. However, tensions have flared in recent years following increased Arab migration to Ghardaia and competition over jobs and economic opportunities.
Fierce clashes erupted in December 2013 following the destruction of a historic Berber shrine, leaving several dead.
The Chaambas are Sunni Muslims who follow the Maliki school of jurisprudence dominant in Algeria and other parts of North Africa, while the Mozabites follow the heterodox Ibadi Muslim sect, which is considered not to belong to either Sunni or Shi’ite Islam.
Berbers have long complained of marginalization in Arab-dominated Algeria, and Mozabites in Algiers on Wednesday staged rallies to demand the government take action to protect the minority.