Algeria will review its relations with Morocco, according to a statement released by the Algerian presidency on Wednesday, after accusing Morocco of complicity in deadly forest fires, escalating tensions between the North African neighbors.
Hundreds of forest fires ravaged large swaths of northern Algeria on August 9, killing at least 90 people, including 33 soldiers. The majority of the fires, according to President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, were started by “criminals.”
The decision to review relations with Rabat was reached during an emergency meeting of the country’s security council, which was chaired by Tebboune and tasked with assessing the situation in the aftermath of the fires.
The presidency said in a statement that “the incessant hostile acts perpetrated by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated a review of the two countries’ relations.” “Security controls on the western borders” with Morocco would be “intensified,” according to the document. Since 1994, the Algerian-Moroccan border has been closed.
The scope of the investigation was not specified in the statement. According to “admission of arrested members,” Algeria’s DGSN security agency discovered “a criminal network, classified as a terrorist organization” behind the fires.
Algerian authorities attribute the fires to the independence movement in Kabylie, a predominantly Berber region stretching east of Algiers along the Mediterranean coast.
Authorities also blame the Kabylie Movement for Self-Determination (MAK) for the lynching of a man falsely accused of arson, which sparked outrage. The mob set fire to the victim as well. 61 people have been arrested as a result of the incident.
According to confessions broadcast on Algerian television, some of the suspects have admitted to being members of the MAK. Algiers has also accused the Rachad movement, which is inspired by Islamists, of being involved.
In recent weeks, forest fires have erupted in several Mediterranean countries, including Morocco. Thousands of hectares of forest were burned in Algeria’s fires, but they were declared extinguished on Wednesday by emergency services. Critics claim that the authorities were unprepared for the fires.