Western Sahara’s pro-independence Polisario Front bombarded the Guerguerat buffer zone under Moroccan control in the far south of the desert territory in an overnight attack Rabat described as part of a “propaganda war”.
“The Saharawi army launched four rockets in the direction of… Guerguerat,” on the border between Morocco and Mauritania, the Saharawi press agency SPS said in a statement Sunday, citing a military leader of the separatist Saharawi forces.
Morocco launched a military operation on November 13 in the buffer zone of Guerguerat, in the extreme south of the former Spanish colony, to drive out a group of Saharawi militants who were blocking a transit route to neighbouring Mauritania.
The SPS statement also reported attacks along the security wall that separates Saharawi fighters from Moroccan forces in the vast desert expanse.
A senior Moroccan official contacted by AFP in Rabat said: “There was harassing fire near the area of Guerguerat, but it did not affect the trunk road, traffic was not disrupted.”
“It’s been part of a cycle of harassment for more than three months,” he said.
“There is a desire to create a propaganda war, a media war, on the existence of a war in the Sahara” but “the situation is normal”, he said.
Western Sahara is a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco’s control, where tensions with the Polisario Front have simmered since the 1970s.
In November, Morocco sent troops into a UN-patrolled buffer zone to reopen a key road leading to Mauritania.
The Polisario responded by declaring a 1991 ceasefire null and void, arguing the road had not existed when the truce was signed.
The two sides are reported to have since exchanged regular fire along the demarcation line.
The UN-backed ceasefire deal was meant to lead to a referendum on self-determination.
Morocco has offered autonomy, but maintains the territory is a sovereign part of the kingdom.
UN-led negotiations involving Morocco and the Polisario, with Algeria and Mauritania as observers, have been suspended since March 2019.
The Polisario Front, which fought a war for independence from Morocco from 1975 to 1991, said it was still willing to join UN talks on the territory’s future — but would not lay down its arms.
“In the past, we put all our trust in the international community and definitively ended our armed struggle,” senior Polisario security official Sidi Ould Oukal said on Tuesday.
“We have waited 30 years. Thirty years of broken promises, prevarication and untenable waiting.”
Ould Oukal insisted the group was “open to any mediation”.
“But at the same time, we will keep up the armed struggle, based on past experiences,” he said.
For its part, Morocco’s position was reinforced last year by US recognition of its sovereignty over the entire disputed territory, breaking decades of precedent.
The move came under president Donald Trump in exchange for Rabat normalising relations with Israel.
Kenyan mob lynches ‘bloodthirsty vampire’ child killer
Kenyan villagers on Friday lynched a man believed to be a “bloodthirsty vampire” child murderer, days after the self-confessed serial killer escaped from police custody, officials said.
Masten Milimo Wanjala was arrested on July 14 over the disappearance of two children, but in a chilling confession, admitted to killing at least 10 others over a five-year period, “sometimes through sucking blood from their veins before executing them”, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said at the time.
The 20-year-old was due for a court appearance Wednesday in Nairobi over the cold-blooded murders which targeted 12- and 13-year-old children, when officers noticed during the morning roll call that he had disappeared.
But a mob caught up with him Friday after he was identified by schoolgoing children at his rural home in Bungoma, more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the police station he had escaped from.
“He comes from this area and so the children saw him and knew it was him and that is when information spread around and locals started pursuing him,” area administrator Bonface Ndiema said.
“In the end he ran into a neighbour’s house but he was flushed out and lynched.”
Police had in July described Wanjala’s arrest as a major breakthrough in an investigation into a spate of disturbing child disappearances in the East African country.
His victims were drugged and drained of their blood and some of them strangled, police said.
– ‘Submerged in sewers’ –
According to police, Wanjala’s first victim was a 12-year-old girl he kidnapped five years ago in Machakos county east of Nairobi.
The murder of his next victim in western Kenya sparked protests, with locals torching the house of the person they suspected killed the boy.
“Unbeknownst to some of the worried families, their children were long executed by the beast and their remains dumped in thickets. Others were submerged in sewer lines in the city and left to rot away,” the DCI said in July.
The bodies of several children feared to have died at Wanjala’s hands have yet to be found.
Three officers who were on duty at the Nairobi police station where he was held were arrested this week on allegations that they either aided or “neglected to prevent” his escape.
A court ordered their release on bail on Friday as a probe into the escape gets under way.
Police spokesman Bruno Shiosho told AFP they have launched a forensic investigation into the identity of the lynched man.
“The locals have said it is him… For now we can confirm that a man locals say is Masten Wanjala who was on the run has been lynched in Bungoma,” he said.
Security guards held hostage as bandits attack Govt building in Nigeria
Two security officers were held hostage on Monday when gunmen attacked the Local Government Service Commission in Nasarawa state, north-central Nigeria.
The two security guards, confirmed to be members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), were tied with a rope by the bandits who stole valuables from the building.
Rammatu Julde, the permanent secretary of the Local Government Services Commission, who disclosed the incident, said no life was lost in the attack.
Julde said the State Civil Service Commission, which is beside the Local Government Service Commission, had also been overrun.
Two AK-47 rifles belonging to the security officers were also seized by the bandits who left the security personnel they were holding hostage, said Jerry Victor, public relations officer of the NSCDC, who confirmed the incident.
How soldiers slaughtered civilians, raze homes in eastern Nigeria
Three civilians were killed in a raid by government forces on the community of Izombe in Imo State, southeastern Nigeria.
At least 70 houses were set on fire in the attack that took place last weekend in the restive region where separatist movement continues.
Videos circulating on social media show soldiers shouting “kill anyone you see” as they attack civilians and burn houses in the community.
A security source who spoke to Gazette Africa said the problem started after youths burned a military van over a disagreement on oil bunkering.
“They also killed a soldier during the incident,” said the security source.
Fleeing residents, who confirmed the incident to Gazette Africa, said violence erupted when soldiers killed one civilian and injured others.
“When the soldiers killed the young man, people got angry and burned their vehicle,” said a resident Adanne Thompson, who added that the soldiers later returned with “17 military vehicles, including armored tanks” and razed houses.
“They killed three people, other villagers are still missing,” said Francis Uchenna, who disclosed that the palace of the traditional leader of the community was also set on fire.
Violent attacks and military assaults have left many civilians dead in the eastern region of the country where government forces have declared war on secessionists who are calling for a referendum on an independent state known as Biafra.
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