Riot in Spanish resort town after immigrant dies in stabbing
Graham Keeley in Barcelona
The Guardian, Monday September 8 2008
Immigrants went on the rampage yesterday after a Senegalese man was stabbed to death in a southern Spanish resort town popular with British expatriates.
Barricades were erected, at least two houses were set on fire and nine cars were damaged in Roquetas de Mar, a small town 15 miles east of Almería.
The violence flared in an area with a large immigrant population after the 28-year-old man died. Firefighters, trying to put out the blazes, described the scene as a "pitched battle" between immigrants and riot police.
Police said the violence, which started just before midnight on Saturday, was brought under control at 5am.
Four men were arrested, two from Guinea Bissau, one from Nigeria and one from Sudan.
Four police officers were injured. A spokesman said: "For reasons which the police are investigating, [the man] was attacked by a person from the neighbourhood who police are looking for."
The scenes on the streets of the resort town in Andalucia, which has a population of 71,000, were more reminiscent of riots in the suburbs of Paris.
It is the worst rioting involving immigrants in the region since 2000, when three murders in nearby El Ejido were carried out in the space of two weeks. They were apparently committed by Moroccans, and triggered racist violence that led to 23 arrests and 50 injuries and prompted an official protest from Morocco.
Despite having one of the fastest rising immigration rates in Europe in the past decade, Spain has largely escaped violence linked to immigration such as that seen in France.
Police in Roquetas de Mar said trouble flared when the Senegalese man, whose initials were given as OK, was stabbed when he reportedly tried to intervene in a row over drugs.
Miguel Corpas, of the Almería regional government, told the Cadena Ser radio station that "a large group [of immigrants] wanted to take justice into their own hands".
He added that a "fierce battle took place [in which] the immigrants took to the streets to try to stop the firefighters putting out the fires".
Corpas said the rioters erected barricades, and set fire to containers and to two houses that were completely destroyed. Rioters stoned the firefighters, according to some reports.
A quarter of the town's population are said to be African immigrants who come to work in construction or in businesses set up by foreigners.
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