North Africa Theater
The British oil company Dana Petroleum announced May 26 it has acquired a large interest in the ongoing oil explorations offshore Morocco's town of Safi. Dana, based in Scottish Aberdeen, produces oil in the British sector of the North Sea and Russia, but is engaged in explorations in Mauritania, Senegal, Ghana and Kenya. It holds that the waters off central Morocco are promising and under-explored.
Thirty-seven Islamists have been charged in Mauritania with belonging to an illegal group after being arrested last month on suspicion of links to a organization tied to al-Qaeda. Another 14 were released May 27, and some accused the authorities of torture during their detention. "I was arrested and freed without knowing why," lawyer Mohamed Haj Ould Sidi told a news conference. "Those detained near me were regularly tortured and I had a lot of trouble sleeping because of their screams." Imam Ahmed Jiddou Ould Abdallahi, who was also detained, told reporters he had been tortured.
Spain's foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos began talks May 30 with his Moroccan and Algerian counterparts in the latest attempt to find a solution to the decades-long conflict in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. Mohamed Benaissa of Morocco and Algerian Abdelaziz Belajadem met Moratinos in Luxembourg to discuss the recent outbreak of violence in the mineral-rich former Spanish colony, where supporters of the Algeria-backed Polisario Front independence movement have been battling police in the territory's main city, Laayoune.
Stephen Ulph of the national-secuity think-tank The Jamestown Foundation writes that "militant Islamist forums" in Algeria are circulating a statement dated May 8 purporting to announce the formation of a new al-Qaeda cell, apparenrly seeking to revive Algeria's dormant civil war.
The Intifada which has broken out in Morocco-occupied Western Sahara continues too grow, and has even spread to Morocco proper. Yesterday, bludgeon-wielding police raided a university campus in Rabat to break up a protest by Saharawi students held in solidarity with demonstrators in the occupied territory. Students hurled stones at the police, and injuries were reported on both sides. (AlJazeera, May 28)
Clashes between Moroccan security forces and Saharawi demonstrators have broken out in towns across Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, following the violent repression of pro-independence protests. Saharawi human rights activists say that nineteen people are missing in police custody, including one whole family, and that a young demonstrator was raped by Moroccan security forces.
Reporters Without Borders issued a statement Feb. 5 protesting a "smear campaign" against Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet, who has been accused of "treason" in numerous pro-government media outlets since he ran a piece in the Spanish daily El Mundo on his visit to bases of the Polisario Front guerilla organization, and an interview with Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz in the UK-based Arabic newspaper al-Moustakillah.