ALGERIA – Algeria announced on Thursday its intention to manufacture unmanned firefighting aircraft and purchase others, after the country witnessed its worst blazes on record this summer.
Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud made the announcement during a parliamentary session, saying Algeria intends to build drones to combat forest fires, likely to be manufactured in military-run laboratories.
Beldjoud confirmed that the country would also purchase a number of these planes to ensure rapid intervention in the event of a fire breaking out, especially after firefighters and authorities struggled to extinguish the flames which burnt for over a week in August.
Many vehicles were unable to reach high altitude areas, especially in the mountainous Kabylie region.
The minister renewed the government’s accusation of “criminal parties” being behind the flames.
“The fires that Algeria witnessed a few months ago were not an accident but are part of a criminal scheme… from home and abroad,” he said.
Algiers blames “terrorist organisations” with links to Israel and Morocco and has carried out many arrests. The country cut off its ties with Rabat this year, while Israel is considered an enemy state.
The unprecedented forest fires caused an outcry as people said the government’s response was ineffective.
Fires burnt through large swathes of territory across the north, killing more than 160 people including dozens of soldiers who helped battle the inferno.
Several homes as well as thousands of hectares of agricultural land were destroyed.
While the North African nation is mainly desert, its forests are hit by fires every year.