Algeria court detains 10 over sectarian violence

The 10 people were caught “red handed” and another 16 were released on bail, Algerian news agency APS reported

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A court in the Algerian desert city of Ghardaia Sunday detained 10 people for their alleged involvement in sectarian clashes in the area that killed five people.

The city of 90,000 inhabitants has been rocked since December by clashes between the Chaamba community of Arab origin and the majority Mozabites, indigenous Berbers belonging to the Ibadi Muslim sect.

The 10 people were caught “red handed” and another 16 were released on bail, Algerian news agency APS reported.

It did not say whether those arrested were from the Chaamba or Mozabite community.

Authorities have also launched an investigation into the events that led to the deaths, APS quoted a security source as saying.

The latest violence between youths from the two communities erupted on Tuesday when a Mozabite teaching centre was torched.

A young Berber died of his wounds two days later, bringing the number of dead from the Mozabite community to four.

Local press reports said a fifth person died of hi injuries in January.

More than 30 people have been wounded and dozens of shops and houses torched in the hilltop city in the M’Zab valley, which is classified as a UNESCO world heritage site and lies 600 kilometres (370 miles) south of Algiers.

Officials told AFP the city was quiet on Sunday, but “that they were remaining vigilant” and helicopters flew surveillance sorties over the area on Saturday.

Analysts have warned that the fragile region could be engulfed by the sectarian violence in Ghardaia, which both sides accuse the other of starting, but which was enflamed by the destruction of a historic Berber shrine in late December.

The two communities have coexisted for centuries, but as elsewhere in the region, limited economic opportunities, despite Algeria’s vast oil and gas wealth, have aggravated social tensions.