It’s a drama within a drama. Algeria is still in shock, a week after the lynching of Djamel Bensmaïl, a young volunteer who went to Larbaâ Nath Irathen, in the wilaya (province) of Tizi-Ouzou, to help fight the fires that ravaged the Kabyle mountains. Tuesday, August 17, the Algerian police announced the arrest of 25 new suspects, after a first crackdown which had allowed the arrest of 36 people, including three women, suspected of having participated in the murder of the thirty-something.

Djamel Bensmaïl, painter by profession, had left Miliana, his home town located nearly three hours by road west of Tizi-Ouzou, to help the inhabitants of Kabylie, a region he knew and appreciated, reported his relatives. But in Larbaâ Nath Irathen, city martyred by fires, the volunteer was accused of arson, lynched, his body burned and mutilated by a furious crowd. The event, which took place at the end of the day on Wednesday August 11, was filmed and broadcast live on social media.

Read also In Algeria, the fires that ravaged Kabylia are extinguished

In the many images published online, we can see a police van followed by dozens of angry people, then the frail young man, shirtless, pushed out of the assaulted vehicle in the courtyard of the police station. The police seem helpless, leaving the victim in the center of a crowd who beat him before his body is dragged several meters, burned in a downtown square and beheaded. His corpse, left for several hours, is photographed by people who post selfies on Facebook.

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“I am going to die unjustly”

In the country, the emotion is immense. The population, devastated by fires that killed at least 90 people (including 33 soldiers), is following the events with fear. Friday evening, a new video shows Djamel Bensmaïl inside the police van, imploring his executioners to give him time to explain himself. “I am going to die unjustly. You will regret it. The Kabyles are men, they don’t act like that ”, let go of the victim, his face bloody and swollen. A man searches him, pushes him and confiscates his phone, while torrents of insults rain down on him.

The numerous images of the lynching allowed the investigation to move forward quickly. The victim was “Returned to the police itself” after hearing that she was suspected of having set fire to the forest, said the director of the judicial police, Mohamed Chakour, during a press conference on Sunday. Among the 36 first suspects arrested, the man who stabbed the victim ” was arrested while he “Tried to flee to Morocco”, Chakour added, stressing that the investigation was still ongoing.

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