Clashes between police officers and protesters opposing controversial gas exploration in the Algerian Sahara have left 40 police officers wounded.
According to the Interior Ministry, the clashes erupted on Sunday in the town of In-Salah, which saw “incidents involving public order, initiated by a group of young people protesting against shale gas operations in the region.”
The statement by the ministry added that two officers were “seriously injured,” while angry demonstrators set the headquarters of In-Salah district and the residence of the district chief on fire. They also torched part of a police dormitory and a police truck.
The Algerian Sahara area has been rocked by increasing protests since late December 2014, when Algerian oil company Sonatrach announced the successful completion of its first pilot drilling for shale gas in In-Salah region.
The company announced the continuation of its exploratory drilling for shale gas using hydraulic fracturing in early February.
In-Salah, which is the closest town to the drilling sites, has seen incessant demonstrations for two months.
In a bid to compensate for its falling oil revenues, Algeria has seen huge investment in shale gas. However, the move has been harshly opposed by the people living near the fields over their concerns about the effects of the gas exploration on the environment.
Algeria holds the fourth-largest recoverable reserves of shale gas in the world, after the United States, China and Argentina. The Northwest African country is also the second-largest natural gas supplier to Europe.