Bloody clashes in Western Sahara following UN envoy visit
The Moroccan Human Rights association reported that many civilians in the Western Sahara were injured when police authorities attempted to break up their peaceful protest in the city of Laayoune (Courtesy of Kirby Gookin/Western Sahara Resource Center)
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Police and pro-independence protesters in Western Sahara clashed during the UN envoy's trip to the disputed territory, according to AFP reports Monday.
Many civilians were forced to go to the hospital to seek medical treatment after the peaceful protest in the main city of Laayoune turned "bloody" after police moved to break up the gathering.
The debacle took place the say following UN special envoy Christopher Ross's arrival in Laayoune as part of renewed efforts to reach peaceful resolutions to end the protracted conflict between Western Sahara and neighboring Morocco.
The independent Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH) reported that the "The police violently dispersed the gathering and surrounded the residential Maatalla district, breaking into people's houses and causing a lot of damage."
However, local authorities told a different version of the events, reporting that five police personnel were "wounded in acts of vandalism and violence" from the 400-person gathering that was organized "without [authority's] permission." The authorities did not mention any information in their report about civilians who were wounded from the clash.
Morocco annexed the former Spanish colony in what has been called the Green March in 1975. The Western Sahara has not been officially recognized by the international community, sometimes even called the last "colony" in Africa. Neighboring Algeria, however, has largely supported Western Sahara independence bid, backing the territory's Polisario Front.
According to the AFP report, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara MINURSO, reported that a "massive" police force was present in Laayoune during the past weekend when Ross visited the territory.
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