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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 13:42 GMT
Spanish town hit by racial violence

El Ejido Tempers are short in El Ejido after the killing


By Daniel Schweimler in Madrid

A nervous calm has settled over the south-eastern Spanish town of El Ejido, near Almeria, after 24 hours of violence directed at the region's immigrant community.

Running street-battles and racist attacks erupted at the funeral on Sunday, of a 26-year old local woman Encarnacion Lopez killed the previous day while being robbed by a Moroccan immigrant.

Police have arrested a 20-year-old Moroccan immigrant on suspicion of murder.

Hundreds of extra police have been brought into El Ejido to guard the immigrant community and maintain order.

Shops and houses belonging to North African immigrants have been wrecked by a crowd of more than 5,000 local people.

Some immigrants were pulled from their cars which they then had to watch being smashed in front of them.

Leaders' plea

Around 1,000 people attended Ms Lopez's funeral, but after the coffin was lowered some turned on local politicians, who then had to seek refuge in the church.

The crowd then attacked TV cameramen, before going on a rampage that spread through the town and surrounding areas.

The immigrant community held their own service nearby, pleading with local people not to persecute them all for the crime of one man.

The region around Almeria has a large immigrant community, part of the steady increase Spain has seen in recent years, mostly from North Africa and South America.

But with it has come a rise in racist tension in a problem which is only likely to get worse.

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See also:
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Spain seeks million foreign workers
16 Jul 99 |  Europe
Anti-immigrant violence flares in Spain
27 Sep 99 |  Africa
Morocco: The great return
04 Oct 99 |  Europe
Call for EU immigration clampdown
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