Volunteer Reportedly Helping Fight Fire Mistaken for Arsonist, Burned Alive by Mob

An apparent social activist who was attempting to put out a wildfire in Algeria was mistaken by an angry mob to be the arsonist and was burned alive.

Jamal ben Ismael, 35, was killed in the northern city of Tizi Ouzou in Kabylia on Wednesday evening, local media reported. The city is one of the areas that has been hardest hit by the North African state's forest fires.

France 24 reported that Ismael had traveled to the district from Miliana, in the state of Ain Defla, 150km (over 90 miles) west of Algiers, to volunteer to help put out the flames and evacuate those in danger. However, he was apprehended by a mob that accused him of starting the fire.

In a social media video, the angry mob is seen pulling the activist out of a police car before beating him and burning him.

Friends of the activist on social media rebutted claims of his involvement with the forest fire, instead saying their friend had traveled to help those in need.

Ismael's father, interviewed by Algerian news channel El Bilad, called for the Algerian people not to be divided by the incident. But he said that he was unable to go to Tizi Ouzou as he fears for his safety there.

"My son is a hero and a martyr, and Miliana has won another hero," the father said in the televised interview.

He added that he hoped "those who have done this will pay for their deeds."

Algeria has been engulfed by some of the largest wildfires in the country's history, which have killed 65 people, including 28 troops. Mountainous regions of northern Algeria have been the worst affected

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has declared three days of national mourning for the dead and suspended all other state activities unrelated to the fire.

Tebboune said on Friday that 22 people have been arrested, suspected of being behind the deadly wildfires.

In a televised speech, he said: "Some fires have been caused by high temperatures but criminal hands were behind most of them.

"We have arrested 22 suspects, including 11 in Tizi Ouzou. Justice will perform its duty.

"It's a disaster...disaster. But our strength will not collapse."

Record high temperatures have seen wildfires soar in other countries across the Mediterranean this year, including Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.

Algeria wildfires
Smoke billows from a wildfire in the forested hills of the Kabylia region, east of the capital Algiers, on August 10, 2021. An activist who was reportedly attempting to put out a wildfire in Northern Algeria was believed to be the arsonist and was burned alive. Ryad Kramdi/Getty