Video Documents Morocco's Peaceful Action to Disperse Protest in Laayoune, Western Sahara, Met by Violent pro-Polisario Militants, Brutal Killing of Police

Nov 22, 2010, 15:57 ET from Moroccan American Center for Policy

UN Security Council rejects Polisario inquiry, deplores violence; Video of event refutes unfounded claims by Polisario/Algeria, extreme violence of pro-Polisario militants echoes terrorist savagery in Sahel

WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The UN Security Council, after a full briefing last week, refused a Polisario Front request to investigate actions taken by Moroccan authorities on November 8 to peacefully disperse a demonstration outside Laayoune, Western Sahara, and deplored the violence that occurred there.  A just-released 14-minute video shows why.  

The video clearly documents Morocco's steps to peacefully disband a tent city set up near Laayoune last month:

  • It shows authorities requesting people leave and thousands voluntarily doing so, on foot and by bus. (1:38)  
  • It shows police officers, carrying only anti-riot gear, no firearms, moving in to take down empty tents. (3:17)
  • The video then shows police met by vicious and deadly attacks from violent militants, many in para-military fatigues, throwing rocks and exploding gas canisters, wielding long-bladed knives and Polisario flags. (3:32)
  • It also shows militants blocking roads, attacking emergency vehicles and staff, and defiling dead police. (8:01)
  • In Laayoune, the video shows burning buildings militants set fire to as they moved the riot to the city. (11:08)
  • It also shows, from confiscated cell photos, militants savagely cut the throat and kill a police officer. (12:14)

In all, 11 Moroccan police were brutally killed and 70 more seriously injured from the militants' violence.  By contrast, no civilian deaths resulted from authorities dispersing the demonstration site. Four civilians sustained serious injury.  One civilian died later in Laayoune in a vehicle accident and another during the riot.

The protest began peacefully last month when local residents set up the tent city to express social and economic concerns. After weeks of constructive dialog and agreement on measures to address these issues, authorities learned pro-Polisario militants had hijacked the protest and planned a violent provocation to disrupt UN-sponsored talks resuming on the 35-year-old Western Sahara conflict. Armed criminals and militants were intimidating people who wanted to leave with violent threats, and held thousands of women, children, and elderly people against their will. To prevent a dangerous escalation, authorities decided to move in.

In the aftermath, the Polisario and its supporters, backed by Algeria, tried to distort the events and cover up the brutal violence of pro-Polisario militants by making false, unsubstantiated, and grossly exaggerated claims of civilians injured and killed. They even tricked Spanish media into publishing 4-year old photos of injured Gaza infants identified as Sahrawi children hurt in Laayoune — which major Spanish news outlets had to retract.  

When the UN Security Council met, however, its members had a chance to see a different picture, and drew a different conclusion.  As did Human Rights Watch and other eyewitnesses, who disputed the inflated accounts.

"This video has scenes of graphic violence," said Robert Holley, Executive Director, Moroccan American Center for Policy.  "We apologize for that.  But it is important the international community see what really happened in Laayoune. It is important to see who committed brutal violence, and who showed restraint and concern for civilian safety, for which 11 Moroccan police paid the ultimate price.  This event was no accident, but part of a spiraling escalation of violent provocations the Polisario and Algeria are exploiting to block a Western Sahara solution. The world saw this kind of violence when al-Qaeda beheaded a French hostage in Mali. The terrorist savagery in the Sahel is trying to reach into Western Sahara, and it won't stop there."

The video, "What really happened in Laayoune, Western Sahara-Nov. 8, 2010," (English|14:37) is at: http://www.moroccanamericanpolicy.org/laayoune.  Please be warned it contains extreme violence.

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.  For more, please visit www.moroccanamericanpolicy.org

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

SOURCE Moroccan American Center for Policy



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