Algeria: Sahrawi refugee camps targeted for anti-terror militarization

Two days after two Spanish aid workers and one Italian were abducted by suspected al-Qaeda militants at the Sahrawi refugee camps of Tindouf in western Algeria, Spain on Nov. 1 called for a UN investigation to evaluate the security situation in the camps, and to probe possible corruption in the distribution of international aid there. “We have asked the United Nations to send a mission to Algeria to assess the security situation in the camps of Tindouf,” Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told reporter after talks in Rabat with her Moroccan counterpart Taieb Fassi Fihri. The camps are under the control of the Polisario Front, which seeks the independence of neighboring Western Sahara from Morocco. Algeria, which traditionally backs the Polisario Front, has reportedly deployed both ground and air forces in an “urgent” operation in the remote Saharan region to prevent the escape of the kidnappers. (Al-Arabiya, Oct. 25)

Peace efforts between Morocco and the Polisario Front have meanwhile hit a deadlock, with a UN envoy unable to organize new talks between the rivals. The Polisario Front’s UN representative said Morocco was refusing to come to talks. Diplomats who attended a Security Council meeting on the disputed territory said Morocco sought to postpone resuming the talks until after elections take place this month . (AFP, Oct. 28)

Repression in occupied Western Sahara continues, with little note from the outside world. On Oct. 10, Sahrwai Arab youth mobilized in the occupied territory to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Moroccan forces’ attack on a protest encampment that had been established at Gdeim Izik, outside the regional capital El Aaiun. Moroccan forces again attacked the commemoration protests in El Aaiun. According to the Polisario, approximately 30 Saharawis were injured and many others arrested. (Newstime Africa, Oct. 18; Sahara Press Service, Oct. 10)

On a Democracy Now broadcast in March, Noam Chomsky argued that last year’s protests in Western Sahara were the unrecognized harbinger of the Arab Spring.

See our last posts on Western Sahara, Algeria and the struggle in North Africa.

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