At least 13 reported killed in Western Sahara clashes

At least 13 reported killed in Western Sahara clashes
# 08 November 2010 22:18 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Thirteen people were killed Monday in clashes between Western Saharan protestors and Moroccan security forces, the Western Saharan independence movement Polisario said in Madrid, APA reports quoting Earth Times.

Polisario delegate Bucharaya Beyun said 12 of the victims were killed when Morocco dismantled a protest camp, and another during subsequent clashes in the Western Saharan capital Laayoune.

Beyun did not identify the victims. Moroccan officials in Laayoune said two members of the security forces were killed and 70 injured while intervening at the tent camp.

Dozens of protestors were also reported injured. Moroccan officials said 65 people were arrested.

The Agdaym Izik camp, whose population Spanish reports put at more than 20,000, was set up a month ago to demand social improvements in the desert territory Morocco regards as its own.

Spanish media reports said Moroccan forces used helicopters, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to dismantle the camp, where several tents were set on fire.

The Moroccan government gave a different version of the events, saying police had arrested criminals and opportunists using the social protest for political ends.

The camp residents demanded improvements such as jobs and better housing. Their protest was not directly related to Polisario’s campaign for independence, though it took separatist undertones, according to Spanish media.

The detainees had tried to undermine negotiations between the government and the camp residents, and resorted to threats in an attempt to empty the camp, the Moroccan Interior Ministry said in a communique.

Security forces met with violence when they went to release camp dwellers held by people with criminal records, regional governor Mohammed Guelmous said.

After the camp residents were dispersed, clashes moved to Laayoune, where demonstrators armed with sticks and stones were facing armoured vehicles, Spanish media reported.

Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez called for calm, urging the United Nations Security Council to "take some decision or initiative."

The alleged violence occurred just as UN-sponsored talks between Morocco and Polisario to solve their decades-old conflict were about to be relaunched in New York.

Polisario wants Rabat to stage a referendum on Western Saharan independence which the UN proposed in 1991. Morocco rejects that option and is offering autonomy to the desert territory it annexed after the colonial power Spain withdrew from there in 1975.

Morocco dispersed the protest camp following violent confrontations between police and young demonstrators in Laayoune, according to the Spanish daily El Pais.

In late October, a 14-year-old Saharan was shot dead by Moroccan police, when the car he was travelling in reportedly tried to force its way through a checkpoint near the protest camp.

Rabat would not tolerate "provocations" in Western Sahara, King Mohammed VI warned Saturday on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Green March with which Morocco laid claim to the territory.

However, the autonomy status that Rabat is planning for Western Sahara would afford it numerous benefits, the king promised.

On Sunday, Moroccan police prevented a Spanish member of the European Parliament and three journalists from disembarking from a plane in Laayoune, Interior Ministry sources confirmed in Rabat.

Morocco frequently bars the entry to such visitors, whom it suspects of campaigning in favour of Polisario.

Polisario’s 16-year war against Morocco ended in a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991.
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