In Setif, northern Algeria, a famous statue has been vandalised – and it’s not the first time. On Tuesday, October 9, residents discovered a man using a hammer to strike the statue of Ain el-Fouara, which represents a nude woman. The statue was already damaged in a similar attack in December 2017, and previously in 2006 and 1997. The assailant was promptly arrested by police.

Two videos of the incident were shared on social media. It shows a man with a thin beard, dressed in ankle-length trousers and wearing a skullcap – a look generally associated with Salafists – attacking the statue with a hammer. Passers-by quickly gather and try to reason with him. Then, one of them jumps up on the pedestal to tackle him. The assailant then jumps down from the statue and runs off, pursued by the crowd. He is finally apprehended by a police officer.

Video shared on Facebook showing the attacker trying to smash the statue with a hammer.

As this video shows, the man tried to flee but was quickly apprehended by police.

Algeria’s culture minister Azzedine Mihoubi tweeted that the perpetrator of the act of vandalism “had a criminal history and suffered from mental health problems”. He also stated that the statue was “slightly damaged” and would be repaired.

On December 17, 2017, an individual had damaged part of the face and breasts of the statue with a hammer and chisel. Images of the attack roused anger in Algeria. Authorities also said at the time that the act was the work of a “mentally ill person”.

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Ain el-Fouara (which means “gushing spring”) is the work of the French sculptor Francis de Saint-Vidal and was unveiled in 1898. It has become a symbol of the city, beloved by many locals.

Damaged on several occasions, the statue has in each case been repaired. On one of those occasions, on April 22, 1997, it was broken into several pieces following a bomb attack. But residents quickly mobilised to repair it and put it back on its pedestal in only two days.