ALGIERS (Reuters) - At least 18 people have been killed in clashes between Arabs and Berbers around the Algerian desert town of Ghardaia, with several businesses and homes burned down, medical sources and state media said on Wednesday.
The violence broke out over the weekend, with security forces sending reinforcements in a bid to calm renewed clashes that intensified on Monday and Tuesday night.
“Fifteen people died of wounds last night,” a source at a local hospital told Reuters.
Three people had died on Monday, mainly in the small town of Guerrara, near Ghardaia, state media said.
Ghardaia, around 600 km (370 miles) from Algiers, is home to both Arabs and the Mozabite Berber community, which speaks its own language and follows its own school of Islam. The area has often been a flashpoint for clashes as Arabs and Mozabites compete for jobs, houses and land.
Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui arrived in Ghardaia early on Wednesday, as tribal leaders called for “vigilance and wisdom”, the official APS news agency reported.
About 30 people were also wounded, including seven seriously, in the past two days, while several businesses, houses and cars were burned, medical and local sources said.
The clashes were the worst in recent years. Similar violence erupted in the area last year, resulting in the death of at least two people. Five people died the previous year.
Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; editing by Patrick Markey and Robin Pomeroy