Algeria wildfires: 22 arrested for arson amid ‘disaster’

A total of 22 people suspected of being behind deadly wildfires in Algeria have been arrested, the country’s president has said.

The wildfires have killed 65 people and are the most devastating in the country’s history.

Mountainous areas of northern Algeria have been hit by dozens of forest fires, mainly in Tizi Ouzou, one of the most populous cities of the Kabylie region east of the capital, Algiers.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune called the fires a “disaster” and urged a spirit of national unity.

He said in a live speech on state television: “Some fires have been caused by high temperatures but criminal hands were behind most of them.

People use tree branches in an attempt to put out the flames of a wildfire in Iboudraren village
People use tree branches in an attempt to put out the flames of a wildfire in Iboudraren village

“We have arrested 22 suspects, including 11 in Tizi Ouzou. Justice will perform its duty.

“It’s a disaster…disaster. But our strength will not collapse.”

Among the dead are at least 28 members of the military as the country deployed the army to assist firefighters in containing fires that ravaged several houses in forested areas.

The army has also been using six helicopters along with ground deployments to extinguish the blazes. Since early on Thursday, support has also come from two firefighting planes hired from the European Union.

In the speech, Tebboune also praised aid caravans from surrounding provinces providing food, medicine and other donations to affected regions.

The country was already struggling with water shortages as temperatures rose before the fires.

Tebboune also confirmed that the Algerian government would receive two more planes from Spain on Friday and a third from Switzerland in the next three days.

Wildfires have blazed across several Mediterranean countries in recent weeks as temperatures soar, including in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.

Last week, an EU atmosphere monitor said the Mediterranean had become a wildfire hotspot.

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