Taking Up Arms
A military operation has been launched by Morocco in the buffer zone of Guerguerat near Mauritania, as announced Friday.
The North African nation also denounced "the provocations of the Polisario" in Western Sahara — once a colony of Spain with a still undefined status. Classified as a "non-autonomous territory" by the United Nations (UN).
The aim of the ongoing operation is to "put an end to the blockade situation" and "restore free civil and commercial movement" on the road leading to Mauritania — whose existence is denounced by the Sahrawi independence fighters and which Rabat considers essential for its trade with sub-Saharan Africa.
For about three weeks, local sources claim militias of some 70 armed men have been "attacking truckers, banning traffic and racketeering."
All this in spite of UN settlement efforts — as the organisation-led negotiations involving Morocco, the Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania have been suspended for several months.
Polisario in response has stated its Sahrawi troops will retaliate in self-defence in light of what it perceives as Morocco being "aggressive" and liquidating the 1991 cease-fire.
The region of Guerguerat has already been at the centre of strong tensions between the Polisario and Morocco, particularly in early 2017.
Morocco controls more than two-thirds of this vast desert territory in its western part, along the Atlantic Ocean and has seen friction for decades with the pro-independence Polisario Front supported by Algeria.