Holders Algeria Stunned By Equatorial Guinea At Cup Of Nations


Equatorial Guinea celebrate after they won the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Algeria and Equatorial Guinea at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 16, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Reigning champions Algeria are in danger of an early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations after a shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of outsiders Equatorial Guinea in Douala on Sunday.

Esteban Obiang’s 70th-minute goal gave Equatorial Guinea the victory and brought Algeria’s 35-game unbeaten record crashing to an end.

The 2019 Cup of Nations winners could only draw 0-0 with Sierra Leone in their opening game in Cameroon and are now left needing to beat Ivory Coast in their final Group E outing on Thursday if they are to advance to the last 16.

The Ivorians, who were last continental champions in 2015, were held 2-2 by Sierra Leone earlier and the group remains wide open but with Algeria bottom on just one point.

READ ALSO: Ghana’s Tetteh Banned Three Games For Throwing Punch

“Oscar Wilde said if you aim for the moon, you will land among the stars. We wanted to break the world record but we haven’t managed,” said Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi.

“Our unbeaten record is still up there with those of Italy, Argentina, and Germany.

“Everyone was talking about it but now we need to focus on something else, go out and secure qualification.”

Meanwhile, an Equatorial Guinea side ranked 114th in the world and 28th in Africa are now well placed to reach the knockout stages for the third time.

The two previous occasions came when they were hosting the tournament, in 2012 and in 2015, but this time many of the fans in the crowd of almost 12,000 in Douala were supporting the ‘National Thunder’.

Equatoguinean capital Malabo, on the island of Bioko, is a short hop over the Gulf of Guinea from Cameroon’s economic capital.

Few of their fans could have foreseen this result against an Algerian side captained by Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez and almost entirely the same as that which won the 2019 AFCON final against Senegal.

“We feel very proud to beat the best team in Africa,” said Equatorial Guinea coach Juan Micha.

Algeria struggled to break down the opposition defence, while both Baghdad Bounedjah in the first half and Youcef Belaili late on had goals disallowed for offside.

The outstanding Iban Edu Salvador came close from long range for Equatorial Guinea in the first half and also created a chance that Luis Nlavo could not finish shortly after the break.

They again came close on a breakaway midway through the second half but it was from the corner that followed that their goal arrived — the delivery from the left was flicked on to the back post where the Spanish-born Obiang tucked it in before running to celebrate with the crowd.

AFP

AFCON 2021: Defending Champions Algeria Held To Draw By Serra Leone

Sierra Leone- Algeria
Sierra Leone’s defender Steven Caulker (L) fights for the ball with Algeria’s forward Baghdad Bounedjah during the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Algeria and Sierra Leone at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 11, 2022.
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Algeria began their defence of the Africa Cup of Nations title with an underwhelming 0-0 draw against Sierra Leone in Douala on Tuesday, as Riyad Mahrez’s side struggled to break down one of the tournament’s rank outsiders.

Qatar-based winger Yacine Brahimi missed the holders’ best chance early in the second half, when he found himself with just the goalkeeper to beat, only for Mohamed Kamara to hold his shot at the second attempt.

The draw allows Algeria to extend their remarkable unbeaten run in competitive action to 35 games, just two shy now of Italy’s record of 37 without defeat.

However, it also means their chief Group E rivals Ivory Coast can seize the initiative by beating Equatorial Guinea at the same venue on Wednesday.

The heat and humidity of a mid-afternoon kick-off at the Japoma Stadium in Cameroon’s economic capital undoubtedly didn’t help, but Sierra Leone deserve enormous credit for their display in their first appearance at the Cup of Nations finals in 25 years.

“We were up against well organised opponents and the weather conditions were difficult. It was very, very hot and extremely humid,” said Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi.

“We are close to Italy’s unbeaten record which is good. We are unbeaten in three years, but we don’t think about that ahead of every game. We just wanted to win today.”

Ranked 108th in the world, Sierra Leone were bolstered by the presence of former England international Steven Caulker in central defence, while China-based Mohamed Buya Turay was lively on the left-wing.

They can be hopeful of building on this result to advance to the last 16, with the best third-placed sides progressing from the group stage in what is now a 24-team competition.

“We are here to do our thing. Whether we are a surprise in this tournament remains to be seen. I don’t want to get carried away after one game,” said their English-born coach, John Keister.

Sierra Leone were backed by vociferous support inside the stadium, although the overall attendance in the 50,000-seat ground may barely have reached four figures.

Alhaji Kamara, who plays for Danish side Randers, came close with an early snapshot for Sierra Leone, while Turay also tested Rais M’Bolhi in the first half.

Kamara then had an effort disallowed for offside after the break before Brahimi’s gilt-edged miss at the other end.

With Mahrez lacking inspiration, it was left to West Ham United’s Said Benrahma to drag a shot wide late on, shortly after coming off the bench, while Ramy Bensebaini was also denied by man-of-the-match Kamara at the death.

Algeria, who defeated Senegal in the 2019 final, face Equatorial Guinea in their next game on Sunday.

-AFP

African Champions Algeria Win Arab Cup

Algeria’s players celebrate winning the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 final at the Al-Bayt stadium in the Qatari city of Al-Khor on December 18, 2021. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

 

Africa Cup of Nations holders Algeria won the Arab Cup on Saturday, beating Tunisia 2-0 after extra time in Qatar.

Amir Sayoud put Algeria ahead on 99 minutes in front of 60,000 spectators at Al Bayt Stadium, with Yacine Brahimi sealing victory deep into stoppage time.

READ ALSO: Why Is FIFA Proposing A Biennial World Cup?

Algeria will defend their Cup of Nations crown in Cameroon next month, having ended a 29-year wait for the trophy in 2019.

 

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (C) and FIFA President Gianni Infantino (R) present Algeria’s goalkeeper and captain Rais M’Bolhi with the the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 trophy following the final football match between Tunisia and Algeria at the Al-Bayt stadium in the Qatari city of Al-Khor on December 18, 2021. (Photo by DENOUR / AFP)

 

The 16-team Arab Cup, organised by FIFA for the first time in the tournament’s history, was a dry run for the 2022 World Cup using six stadiums in Qatar.

The hosts finished third after edging Egypt 5-4 on penalties earlier in the day following a goalless draw after 120 minutes.

Three Killed In Algeria Building Collapse

File photo of an Algerian flag.

 

Three people were killed and two children injured in a building collapse in Algeria following heavy rainfall, rescue services said Wednesday.

The building collapsed in the Algiers suburb of Bologhine on Tuesday, following a landslide caused by torrential rain that hit the capital and several other Algerian cities.

Three bodies, two men and a woman, were recovered from the rubble, civil protection services said in a statement, adding that two children were found injured.

In March, flooding due to torrential rains in the northwest of the country resulted in six deaths, five of them children.

In May, seven people were killed in various provinces during flooding after heavy downpours.

AFP

Algeria Journalist Freed After Six Months In Jail

File photo of Algerian journalist, Rabah Kareche. Credit: Amnesty Int’l

 

Algerian journalist Rabah Kareche left prison on Tuesday after completing a six-month sentence for “spreading false news”, his newspaper Liberte said.

“Our reporter Rabah Kareche is free again after six months behind bars in Tamanrasset prison” in the country’s desert south, it reported on its website.

An appeals court had sentenced Kareche on October 11 to six months in prison plus six months suspended, a two-month reduction from his original sentence.

His release came as he had already served much of sentence during his trial and appeal.

Kareche was arrested in April after reporting the Tuareg, a Berber minority who have long complained of economic and social marginalisation, had protested over “expropriation” of their historical lands.

He was sentenced on August 12 to eight months behind bars plus four months suspended for “spreading false information liable to damage public order”.

He was also accused of posting reports that could trigger “segregation and hatred within society”.

“I’m the victim of a grave injustice,” Liberte quoted him saying as he left prison.

“I did nothing more than my job as a journalist with professionalism.”

Algeria ranks a lowly 146th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.

 

Algeria Begins Sinovac Covid-19 Vaccine Production

 

Algeria on Wednesday started producing the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinovac, with production expected to be eight million doses a month.

Prime Minister Aimene Benabderrahmane, who attended the launch of the production process at a factory in the eastern city of Constantine, called it a “big achievement”.

Production could be doubled in the North African nation if needed, officials said.

“Algeria aims to achieve other projects of this kind,” Benabderrahmane said, praising the country’s pharmaceutical industry.

Lotfi Djamel Benbahmed, Algeria’s minister for the pharmaceutical industry, has said the country plans to export the vaccines.

He said Saidal, the firm making the jabs, was so far the only African company to be licensed to produce the jab.

Following a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases in past months, Algeria has seen a drop in recent weeks.

Algeria, the biggest African nation by size, announced this month a campaign to vaccinate some 70 percent of its 44 million population by the end of the year.

AFP

Algeria Ex-Presidential Candidate Jailed

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

An Algiers court on Thursday sentenced a former presidential candidate and retired general to four years in prison for undermining army morale, the official APS news agency reported.

Ali Ghediri had said he would stand in Algeria’s April 2019 election against longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The ailing autocrat’s decision to seek a fifth mandate led to mass protests against his rule and he later stepped down under army pressure.

Ghediri, detained since June 2019, appeared in court on Thursday accused of “participating during peacetime in undertakings aimed at weakening army morale”, APS said.

The prosecution had requested a sentence of seven years behind bars.

Ghediri was a political novice without a strong support structure to back him when he threw his hat into the ring against Bouteflika.

He had said he wanted to “break the system” and “build a second republic”.

READ ALSO: Algeria’s Ex-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika Dies Aged 84

In a late 2018 interview with El Watan newspaper, Ghediri had hit out at speculation that the April election might be postponed and Bouteflika’s mandate extended, suggesting he expected the army to stop any such move.

The comments earned him a rebuke from the defence ministry, which threatened to go to court if rules on the conduct of former military officers were breached.

Bouteflika delayed the April elections indefinitely after the Hirak pro-democracy protest movement broke out in February that year.

Then interim president Abdelkader Bensalah scheduled a new vote for July but the country’s constitutional council cancelled it, citing a lack of candidates.

An election was eventually held in December 2019, with Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared the winner.

Bouteflika died last week, aged 84, while Bensalah died Wednesday, aged 79.

AFP

Algeria’s Ex-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika Dies Aged 84

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 28, 2014 Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is pushed in his wheelchair as he arrives for his inauguration ceremony as he is sworn as Algeria’s President for a fourth term in Algiers. – Algeria’s former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika died on September 17, 2021 aged 84, public television announced, citing a statement from the presidency. (Photo by Farouk Batiche / AFP)

 

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who ruled Algeria for two decades before resigning in 2019 as huge protests engulfed the country, has died aged 84, public television announced.

The former strongman had left office in April 2019 under pressure from the military, following weeks of demonstrations over his bid to run for a fifth term in office.

After quitting, he had stayed out of the public eye at a residence in western Algiers.

The announcement of his death late Friday evening triggered little reaction in the North African country, reflecting how his absence had stamped him out of public interest.

The Algerian national flag flies at half-mast in the capital Algiers on September 18, 2021, following the death of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

 

A statement from his successor Abdelmadjid Tebboune noted Bouteflika’s past as a fighter in the war for independence from France and said flags would be lowered to half mast for three days to honour him.

But on the streets of the capital Algiers, many residents told AFP the once-formidable president would not be missed.

“Bless his soul. But he doesn’t deserve any tribute because he did nothing for the country,” said greengrocer Rabah.

Malek, a telecoms employee, said Bouteflika “was incapable of reforming the country despite his long rule”.

Even state broadcasters limited their coverage to the news of his death, without running special bulletins on his legacy.

Sabqpress news website said the funeral would take place on Sunday at the El-Alia cemetery east of the capital where his predecessors and other independence fighters are buried.

There was no immediate confirmation from authorities.

 

‘Absolute President’

Bouteflika became president of Algeria in 1999 as the former French colony emerged from a decade of civil war that killed nearly 200,000 people.

He went on to be elected for three more consecutive five-year terms, most recently in 2014.

Dubbed “Boutef” by Algerians, he won respect as a foreign minister in the 1970s and then for helping foster peace after the civil war, notably with an amnesty law that prompted thousands of Islamist fighters to hand in their weapons.

“He was welcomed in countries around the world, and the country improved when Bouteflika became president,” said kitchen porter Amer, 46.

Journalist Farid Alilat, who has written a biography of Bouteflika, says that at the height of his rule in the early 2000s, the president had “all the levers of power”.

Crucially, he was backed by the army and the intelligence services.

“He became an absolute president,” Alilat told AFP.

Algeria was largely spared the wave of uprisings that swept the Arab world in 2011, with many crediting still-painful memories of the civil war — as well as a boost in state handouts — for keeping a lid on tensions.

But Bouteflika’s rule was marked by corruption, leaving many Algerians wondering how a country with vast oil wealth could end up with poor infrastructure and high unemployment that pushed many young people overseas.

“He had a very comfortable life, even after he was ousted from power. But we have to admit that his legacy isn’t the most glowing”, said carpenter Mohamed, 46.

 

Ill Health And Protests

In his later years, Bouteflika’s ill health started weighing on his credibility as a leader.

Despite suffering a mini-stroke in April 2013 that affected his speech and forced him to use a wheelchair, he decided to seek a fourth mandate despite growing public doubts about his ability to rule.

His bid in 2019 for a fifth term sparked angry protests that soon grew into a pro-democracy movement known as Hirak.

When he lost the backing of the army, he was forced to step down.

The Hirak mass protests continued, with demands for a full overhaul of the ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.

Some key Bouteflika-era figures were eventually jailed in corruption cases, including Bouteflika’s powerful brother Said, but the long-sought changes did not happen.

Bouteflika’s successor Tebboune was elected in late 2019 on record low turnout, with the Hirak calling for a boycott.

A referendum on a constitutional amendment seen as aiming to torpedo the Hirak generated even less interest from voters.

But the protest movement was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic and has struggled to regain momentum as the government cracks down on opposition.

According to the CNLD prisoners’ group, around 200 people are in jail in connection with the Hirak or over individual freedoms.

And with the Bouteflika-era old guard still largely ruling the country, the legacy of two decades of his rule is mixed.

“For his entire life, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was driven by two obsessions: take power and keep it at any price,” said Alilat.

“But it was this obsession… that sparked the revolt that drove him from power.”

AFP

Algeria Cuts Diplomatic Ties With ‘Hostile’ Morocco

Algeria's Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra holds a press conference in the capital Algiers, on August 24, 2021. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP
Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra holds a press conference in the capital Algiers, on August 24, 2021. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

 

Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said Tuesday that his country has severed diplomatic relations with Morocco due to “hostile actions”, following months of resurgent tensions between the North African rivals.

The countries have long accused one another of backing opposition movements as proxies, with Algeria’s support for separatists in the disputed region of Western Sahara a particular bone of contention for Morocco.

“Algeria has decided to cut diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Morocco from today,” Lamamra announced during a press conference.

“History has shown… Morocco has never stopped carrying out hostile actions against Algeria,” he added.

READ ALSO: Zambia Swears In New President

There was no immediate reaction from Rabat to the announcement.

Algiers’s move came following a review of bilateral relations announced last week as it alleged Rabat was complicit in deadly forest fires that ravaged the country’s north.

Lamamra accused Morocco’s leaders of “responsibility for repeated crises” and behaviour that has “led to conflict instead of integration” in North Africa.

Late last month, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI deplored the tensions between the two countries, and invited Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune “to make wisdom prevail” and “to work in unison for the development of relations” between the two countries.

‘Provocation’

But Algeria’s forest fires, which broke out on August 9 amid a blistering heatwave, burned tens of thousands of hectares of forest and killed at least 90 people, including more than 30 soldiers, further stoking tensions.

While critics say Algerian authorities failed to prepare for the blazes, Tebboune declared most of the fires were of “criminal” origin.

Algerian authorities have blamed the independence movement of the mainly Berber region of Kabylie extending along the Mediterranean coast east of the capital.

Algiers has accused Rabat of backing the separatists.

“The Moroccan provocation reached its climax when a Moroccan delegate to the United Nations demanded the independence of the people of the Kabylie region,” Lamamra said Tuesday.

Last month, Algeria recalled its ambassador to Rabat for consultations after Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, expressed support for self-determination in that region.

At the time, Algeria’s foreign ministry said Morocco thus “publicly and explicitly supports an alleged right to self-determination of the Kabylie people”.

Algerian authorities have also accused the Movement for Self-determination of Kabylie (MAK) of involvement in lynching a man falsely accused of arson during the recent forest fires, an incident that sparked outrage.

Algeria last week accused Morocco of supporting the group, which it classifies as a “terrorist organisation”.

‘Bad decision’

“The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries,” the presidency had said.

It also said there would be an “intensification of security controls on the western borders” with Morocco.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.

Mohamed, a Moroccan bus driver, called Algeria’s latest move “a bad decision”.

“It’s like cutting ties with your next-door neighbour,” he told AFP.

The two North African countries along with Tunisia were united, he added, saying “there are no differences, this happens between governments”.

Algeria’s foreign minister also accused Morocco of leading “a media war… against Algeria, its people and its leaders”.

But Lamamra also said consular assistance to citizens of both countries would not be affected.

Relations between Algiers and Rabat have been fraught in past decades, especially over the flashpoint issue of the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco considers the former Spanish colony an integral part of its kingdom, but Algeria has backed the Polisario movement which seeks independence there.

A normalisation deal between Morocco and Israel in December triggered fresh tensions between Rabat and Algiers because the US recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of the accord.

Lamamra on Tuesday accused the Israeli foreign minister of “senseless accusations and veiled threats” after Yair Lapid expressed “worries about the role played by Algeria in the region”.

On his first visit to Morocco since the countries normalised ties, Lapid said his concerns were based on fears Algeria was “getting close to Iran”, as well as “the campaign it waged against the admission of Israel as an observer member of the African Union”.

 

AFP

Algeria To Review Relations With Morocco After Forest Fires

Villagers gather as smoke billows from a fire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the Algerian capital Algiers, on August 12, 2021. Ryad KRAMDI / AFP
Villagers gather as smoke billows from a fire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the Algerian capital Algiers, on August 12, 2021. Ryad KRAMDI / AFP

 

Algeria will review its relations with Morocco after accusing it of complicity in deadly forest fires, a presidency statement said Wednesday, in the latest tensions between the North African neighbours.

At least 90 people, including 33 soldiers, were killed in dozens of forest fires that broke out amid a blistering heatwave on August 9 across swathes of northern Algeria.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has said most of the fires were “criminal” in origin.

The decision to review relations with Rabat was made during an extraordinary meeting of the country’s security council, chaired by Tebboune and dedicated to evaluating the situation after the fires.

READ ALSO: Algeria Combats Wildfires, Mourns Victims

“The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries,” the presidency statement said.

It said there would also be an “intensification of security controls on the western borders” with Morocco.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.

The statement did not clarify what the review might mean.

Algeria’s DGSN security agency said investigations had discovered “a criminal network, classed as a terrorist organisation” as being behind the fires, according to the “admission of arrested members”.

Algerian authorities point the finger for the fires at the independence movement of the mainly Berber region of Kabylie, which extends along the Mediterranean coast east of the capital Algiers.

Fraught ties

The authorities also accuse the Movement for Self-determination of Kabylie (MAK) of involvement in the lynching of a man falsely accused of arson, an incident that sparked outrage. The mob also set the victim on fire.

Authorities have arrested 61 people over the incident.

Some of the suspects have confessed to being members of the MAK, according to confessions broadcast on Algerian television.

Algiers has also accused the Islamist-inspired Rachad movement of involvement.

“The high security council has decided… to intensify the efforts of the security services to arrest the rest of the individuals involved in the two crimes, as well as all members of the two terrorist movements that threaten public security and national unity,” according to the presidency statement.

It said it aimed for their “total eradication, particularly the MAK, which receives the support and aid of foreign parties… Morocco and the Zionist entity”, the statement added, referring to Israel.

The Paris-based MAK told AFP it rejected the accusations.

Algiers classified both the MAK and Rachad as “terrorist organisations” in May.

Last month, Algeria recalled its ambassador in Morocco for consultations.

The move came after Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, expressed support for self-determination for Algeria’s Kabylie region.

At the time, Algeria’s foreign ministry said Morocco thus “publicly and explicitly supports an alleged right to self-determination of the Kabylie people”.

Relations between Algiers and Rabat have been fraught in past decades, especially over the flashpoint issue of the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco considers the former Spanish colony an integral part of its kingdom, but Algeria has backed the Polisario movement which seeks independence there.

Algeria is among several Mediterranean countries that have seen forest fires in recent weeks, including Morocco.

The blazes in Algeria burned tens of thousands of hectares of forest, with emergency services on Wednesday declaring all the fires had been extinguished.

Critics say the authorities failed to prepare for the blazes.

AFP

Algeria Combats Wildfires, Mourns Victims

Smoke rises from a wildfire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers, on August 10, 2021. – At least five people have died in raging wildfires in Algeria as firefighters battle more than 31 blazes amid blistering temperatures and tinder-dry conditions, officials said. (Photo by Ryad KRAMDI / AFP)

 

Blazes raged across northern Algeria on Thursday as the country observed a national day of mourning for dozens of people killed in the latest wildfires to sweep the Mediterranean.

The North African country has been in the grip of devastating fires since Monday that have claimed at least 69 lives — 41 civilians and 28 soldiers.

Soldiers and civilian volunteers have joined firefighters on multiple fronts in the effort to extinguish the blazes that have been fanned by windy and tinder-dry conditions.

In Tizi Ouzou district, the area with the highest casualty toll, an AFP journalist reported entire sectors of forest going up in smoke.

Villagers forced to evacuate in order to escape the flames began trickling back to their homes, overwhelmed by the scale of the damage.

“I have nothing left. My workshop, my car, my flat. Even the tiles were destroyed,” one of them told AFP.

But he said he had “managed to save his family”, while adding that “neighbours died or lost their relatives”.

– ‘Surge of solidarity’ –

Flags were flying at half-mast after President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning starting from Thursday.

The Algerian authorities say they suspect widespread arson after so many fires erupted in such a short space of time.

On the fourth day of the wildfires, efforts to overcome the blazes are continuing in many regions where civilians and soldiers often with limited means joined the fight.

Images of trapped villagers, terrified livestock and forested hillsides reduced to blackened stumps have been shared on social media.

Algeria is also chartering two firefighting planes from the European Union, aircraft recently used to combat fires in Greece.

France also announced the arrival in Algeria of two Canadair firefighting planes it has sent.

“They will help the rescue efforts to deal with the terrible fires that Algeria has been facing for several days,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Thursday.

Neighbouring Morocco, with whom Algeria has long had strained ties over the Western Sahara, also offered to help by providing two planes.

Faced with the scale of the disaster, pleas for help are multiplying in Algeria and beyond.

“Individuals and associations are mobilising… by organising collections of clothes, foodstuffs, medicines and hygiene products,” said Algeria’s TSA news website, calling it a “surge of solidarity”.

– Heatwave –

High winds fuelled the rapid spread of the flames in tinder-dry conditions created by a heatwave across North Africa and the wider Mediterranean.

The authorities have raised the possibility of criminal behaviour.

Four suspected “arsonists” arrested so far, but their identities or suspected motives have not yet been disclosed.

Armed forces chief Said Chengriha visited soldiers in Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia, another badly affected area. Prime Minister Aimene Benabderrahmane also visited Tizi Ouzou.

Each summer, Algeria endures seasonal wildfires, but rarely anything approaching this year’s disaster.

Meteorologists expect the Maghreb heatwave to continue until the end of the week, with temperatures in Algeria reaching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

Across the border in Tunisia, where almost 30 fires have been recorded since Monday, the mercury hit an all-time record of 50.3 Celsius in the central region of Kairouan (centre).

On the northern shores of the Mediterranean, deadly wildfires have been raging in Turkey and Greece for the past two weeks.

In Italy, where firefighters were battling more than 500 blazes overnight, Sicily recorded a temperature of 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.8 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday that is believed to be a new European record.

Algeria Mourns 69 Dead As Mediterranean Wildfires Spread

People gather as firefighters battle the flames of a building on fire, in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers, on August 11, 2021. (Photo by Ryad KRAMDI / AFP)

 

 

 

The death toll climbed to at least 69 as firefighters, soldiers and civilian volunteers battled blazes in forests across northern Algeria on Wednesday, in the latest wildfires to sweep the Mediterranean.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning starting from Thursday, and authorities say they suspect widespread arson after so many fires erupted in such a short space of time.

In an update, state-run news agency APS said the rash of more than 50 fires that broke out Tuesday had claimed four more lives, in addition to state television’s toll of 65 dead, including 28 soldiers deployed to help overstretched emergency services.

Several arrests have been announced, but the identities or suspected motives of those detained have not been disclosed.

Images of trapped villagers, terrified livestock and forested hillsides reduced to blackened stumps were shared on social media, many of them accompanied by pleas for help.

AFP journalists saw villagers desperately trying to put out the spreading fires with makeshift brooms in an effort to save their homes.

High winds fuelled the rapid spread of the flames in tinder-dry conditions created by a heatwave across North Africa and the wider Mediterranean, fire official Youcef Ould Mohamed told APS.

Scores of separate wildfires remained active Wednesday, spread across 17 provinces, emergency services spokesman Nassim Barnaoui told reporters.

Most of the fires and 16 of the deaths were recorded in Tizi Ouzou district, in the mainly Berber region of Kabylie, east of the capital Algiers.

“I left all my stock in my village and fled to Tizi Ouzou with my wife and three children,” said Abdelhamid Boudraren, a shopkeeper from the village of Beni Yeni.

“Luckily I own a flat in the centre of Tizi Ouzou, where I’m holed up with my family and some neighbours.”

The situation was “alarming”, Letreche Hakim, the head of civil protection in Bejaia, the second biggest city in Kabylie, told APS.

“Things were under control, but with the outbreak of nine large fires on Wednesday morning, our forces are scattered,” Hakim said.

– Fires in Tunisia –
There have been mounting calls for aid convoys to be sent to the worst-hit districts with food and medicine from the capital.

On Wednesday, an AFP correspondent saw several lorries headed to Tizi Ouzou with aid donated by the public.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the former colonial power “stands ready” to offer support in tackling the situation, and expressed the “solidarity of France with the Algerian people”, in a post on Twitter.

The British embassy in Algiers offered “condolences to those who have died, or been injured or affected”.

State media have reported four arrests for suspected arson.

Meteorologists expect the heatwave across North Africa to continue until the end of the week, with temperatures in Algeria reaching 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit).

 

A firefighter sprays water as he battles flames in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers, on August 11, 2021. – The death toll climbed to at least 69 as firefighters, soldiers and civilian volunteers battled blazes in forests across northern Algeria today, in the latest wildfires to sweep the Mediterranean. (Photo by Ryad KRAMDI / AFP)

 

In Algeria’s neighbour Tunisia, the temperature in the capital Tunis hit an all-time record of 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday.

The Tunisian emergency services reported 15 fires across the north and northwest, but no casualties.

On the northern shores of the Mediterranean, Turkey reported eight deaths and Greece three from wildfires that have raged for the past two weeks.

Each summer, Algeria endures seasonal wildfires, but rarely anything approaching this year’s disaster.

In 2020, nearly 440 square kilometres (170 square miles) of forest were destroyed by fire, and several people were arrested on suspicion of arson.

On Monday, the UN released a major report showing how the threat from global warming is even more acute than previously thought.

It highlighted how scientists are quantifying the extent to which human-induced warming increases the intensity and/or likelihood of a specific extreme weather event, such as a heatwave or a wildfire.

Climate change amplifies droughts, creating ideal conditions for wildfires to spread out of control and inflict unprecedented material and environmental damage.