Algeria’s chief calls forest fires “catastrophe”, says 22 arsonists arrested | World information

ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algeria has arrested 22 people suspected of being behind the most devastating forest fires in the country’s history, in which 65 people were killed, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said Thursday, calling the fires a “disaster” and demanded the preservation of national unity.

Dozens of forest fires have hit mountain areas in northern Algeria since Monday, especially in Tizi Ouzou, the main province of Kabylie east of the capital Algiers.

“Some fires were caused by high temperatures, but criminal hands were behind most of them,” said Tebboune in a live address on state television. “We arrested 22 suspects, including 11 in Tizi Ouzou. The judiciary will do its job.”

At least 28 soldiers were among the dead when the North African country dispatched the army to help fire fighters contain fires that ravaged several homes in wooded areas.

“It’s a catastrophe … a catastrophe. But our forces will not collapse,” praised Tebboune, praising aid caravans from other provinces that are supposed to supply the affected regions with food, medicine and other donations in kind.

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“We have to maintain national unity … I insist on national unity,” he added.

In addition to soldiers on site, the army uses six helicopters to put out fires. They are supported by two fire-fighting planes rented by the European Union, which have been in use since early Thursday.

The government will receive two more planes from Spain on Friday and a third from Switzerland in the next three days, Tebboune said.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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