Moroccan police attack Saharawi students following week of anti-Saharawi violence
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Published: May 14, 2007
RABAT, Morocco: Police in Casablanca attacked university students from Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara on Monday, injuring ten, some of the alleged victims said.
On Monday, over 100 baton-wielding police beat 20 Saharawis as they tried to enter Hassan II University, student Mohamed Ahmed said by telephone.
Leila, another Saharawi student who declined to give her surname, fearing reprisals, confirmed Ahmed's account.
Police officials declined to talk about the incident, while university officials claimed they knew nothing about it.
The attack follows a week of anti-Saharawi violence at Moroccan universities.
On Friday at Hassan II University, Moroccan students attacked Saharawi student Omar Sageh with a machete, bicycle chain and sticks, said Fatima, a friend who witnessed the attack but declined to give her surname. Sageh, bleeding from multiple wounds, locked himself in a guard booth while Fatima telephoned for help, she said.
Dozens of Saharawis came to Sageh's aid and were attacked by at least 100 Moroccan students armed with sticks and knives, Fatima said. Police and university staff on the scene did nothing to stop the violence, she added.
Fatima and other friends said Saharawi students were still barred from entering the university by their Moroccan counterparts.
"They want to exterminate us," said Brahim Salem, who was severely burned with a molotov cocktail on Saturday. He added that the attacks were aimed at crushing pro-independence sentiment.
Students said attacks happen every few months at universities throughout Morocco and that university officials routinely ignored complaints.
On Monday, some 50 Saharawi students at Mohamed V University in Rabat demonstrated to demand independence for Western Sahara and condemn police attacks on Saharawi students in Marrakech and Agadir over the past week.
Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 after colonizer Spain left. The Algerian-backed independence movement Polisario resisted until the U.N. brokered a cease-fire in 1991. A planned independence referendum never happened.
Most Saharawis favor independence and stage regular demonstrations, which police often put down harshly.
Morocco rejects a referendum and has said it will hold talks with Polisario under U.N. auspices on Western Sahara's future. No date for the talks has yet been set.