Armed with a hammer and chisel, a man started attacking a statue on a fountain in the northern Algerian town of Sétif on Monday morning. The Ain El Fouara fountain is a symbolic statue in the town that has been vandalised before by strict Islamists. Passers-by watched as the man chiselled off the face and breasts of the female figure, before he was arrested.
Several videos of the incident rapidly started circulating on social media. In one of them, a bearded man wearing a qamis (a long tunic) starts hitting the chest of the statue with his hammer and chisel. Onlookers try to stop him at one point, some of them throwing things at him, while others actually hit him with sticks. One man eventually manages to get up on the statue with a stick in his hand, forcing the man to protect himself, which allows another man to wrestle his hammer off him. One video shows police officers restraining people trying to attack the man who had defaced the statue.
This Twitter user writes: "Enemies of culture, enemies of art, enemies of beauty. But above all, enemies of women. Even a statue provokes them! The Ain El Fouara Fountain, an emblematic monument of the town of Sétif. Poor Algeria."
It wasn't just passers-by who were angered by the attack on the statue. On social media, many people condemned the act of vandalism, accusing the man of being a "Salafist", primarily because he was wearing a qamis, which is a traditional Muslim garment, and had a full beard. Others compared his act to the Islamic State group's destruction of important heritage sites in Syria.
This Facebook user writes: "This isn't happening in Syria, but in Sétif in Algeria this morning. The Ain Fouara statue was vandalised by a frustrated Islamist dog. Whoever said that Daesh wasn't already present in Algeria?"
This tweet says, "I hope that this thing [the vandal] will be identified and punished severely by the authorities. #angry"
The Ain El Fouara statue ("the fountain's source" in English) is a work by French sculptor Francis de Saint-Vidal. It was unveiled in 1898 and has since become a symbolic monument in the town, where it is popular among the locals. This isn't the first time that the nakedness of the female figure has caused controversy. On April 22, 1997, it was damaged by a homemade bomb and it was also attacked by a man with a hammer on February 28, 2006. It was repaired after each attack.