Forty policemen were injured in clashes between anti-fracking protesters and the police near the Algerian city of In Salah, where the state-owned oil company Sonatrach successfully completed its first pilot shale drilling in December.
“The town of In Salah had experienced Sunday (1st March) incidents affecting public order, initiated by a group of young contesting the exploration of shale gas operations in the region,” the ministry said in a statement.
According to one source, protesters set fire to the headquarters of the daïra (sub-prefecture) of In-Salah and the residence of the head of daïra, a part of the police dormitory and a police truck. Security forces managed to “master the situation and bring calm to the city,” the statement said.
In January 2015, Sonatrach announced that it would invest $70 billion to explore Algeria’s 707 trillion cubic feet of estimated technically recoverable shale gas. Soon afterwards, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said in a televised interview that shale exploration is not on the government’s agenda. This, however, didn’t stop Sonatrach’s activities in In Salah as the drilling is only exploratory in nature and aims to assess the nature and amount of the resources.
“Asking the cessation of drilling at In Salah, is asking to stop drilling throughout the country,” said Sonatrach’s interim CEO, Said Sahnoun earlier in February. “We will not stop the drilling activity of shale pilot wells in In Salah,” he added.
The protests in In Salah have so far left 90 injured, both protesters and the police. Meanwhile, 11 people who were arrested on Saturday for public disorder and vandalism acts were released, while 12 others are still detained, a source close to Algerian security forces said.
Image: Sonatrach headquarters in Algeria.
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