Toll rises to six in deadly W.Sahara clashes

LAAYOUNE, Western Sahara (AFP) – Moroccan authorities announced Tuesday one more death following clashes between police and refugees in the Western Sahara, bringing the overall toll to seven.

Official sources said that five law enforcement officers and another official died after police broke up a camp housing some 12,000 people set up four weeks ago outside Laayoune, the main town in the Western Sahara.

Five deaths were reported Monday during the clashes and a sixth Moroccan official was pronounced dead Tuesday, the authorities said.

In addition, the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for the Western Sahara from Moroccan rule and has set up its own government for the territory, claimed one death — a 26-year-old man killed by Moroccan security forces.

Residents of Laayoune said the city was calm Tuesday a day after police cleared the camp.

“Laayoune is like a town waking up from chaos,” one resident said.

Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco after Spanish settlers withdrew in 1975. But the Polisario Front fought the Moroccan presence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.

Polisario wants a UN-organised self-determination referendum, with independence as one of the options. Morocco has so far rejected any proposal that goes beyond greater autonomy.

In New York, the United Nations announced the start of new talks, expressing regret over the raid and subsequent violence.

The raid coincided with the start of UN-brokered peace talks between Moroccan and rebel representatives near New York.

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