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Ethnic violence in Algeria leaves 1 dead, 12 injured

Violence in the south escalates as Algeria prepares to go to the polls
More than 400 people have been wounded and seven killed since December (AFP)

Clashes between Arabs and Berbers in southern Algeria have left one young man dead and at least a dozen others injured, according to media reports.

The incident occurred after worshipers left Friday prayers in the small town of Berriane, some 45 kilometres north of the ancient town on Ghardaia .

"A young (ethnic Berber) Mozabite, Nacer Benacer, was killed by a bullet from a hunting rifle," Hamou Mesbah, a senior member of the opposition Socialist Forces Front (FFS), told AFP.

"Another youngster, the same age, is in a coma, after he was also shot," Mesbah added, without giving more details of the shootings.

Local media reports also said at least a dozen others were injured in the clashes, including two police officers.

Molotov cocktails were reportedly used and rocks thrown, leading to a major bottleneck on a key motorway that links Algeria’s north and south. The police eventually stepped in to break up the clashes, dispersed crowds with tear gas.

Algeria is about to head to the polls on 17 April, with small scale protests breaking out in the capital Algiers. Friday’s incident, however, is not thought to be directly linked to the vote.

Tensions between ethnic Berbers and Arabs have been commonplace in recent months, with Berbers commonly complaining of discrimination and slamming the government for failing to enact regional development schemes.

More than 400 people have been wounded and seven killed since the latest bout in cross-community violence around Ghardaia flared up in December.

Hundreds of houses and shops in the town, which is a UNESCO heritage site, have also been burned down in the unrest.

On Tuesday, 35 people, including 17 policemen, were wounded in clashes.