Algerian men from the Mozabite community, a Berber minority group which adheres to the Ibadi faith, an offshoot of Shi'a Islam, sit outside a closed shop in the main square of the flashpoint desert oasis town of Ghardaia. Picture: Farouk Batiche

Algiers - At least 35 people, including 17 police, have been wounded in renewed clashes between Arabs and Berbers in the southern Algerian town of Ghardaia, a medical source told AFP Monday.

The wounded were taken to hospital after the latest round of fighting broke out late Saturday, said Abdelbaki Bouhafs, a health official in the town, 600 kilometres (370 miles) south of Algiers, on the edge of the Sahara desert.

Seven people have been killed and more than 400 wounded since December, when fighting erupted between Berber residents, known as Mozabites, and Arab residents, known as Chaambas.

The region's two communities have coexisted for centuries, but rising sectarian tensions were inflamed by the destruction of a historic Berber shrine in late December.

Hundreds of homes and shops have been burnt down or damaged in Ghardaia, a UNESCO world heritage site and once-popular tourist destination.

Some 10 000 police and gendarmes were deployed around the city's main streets last month in a bid to restore order.