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MINURSO confirms insurgency in Western Sahara

A report on the Western Sahara released by the UN Secretary General on 8 October confirmed that Western Saharan rebels have been carrying out attacks against Moroccan forces since they renounced the 30-year ceasefire in November 2020.

Since then, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the state declared by the Polisario Front rebel group, has released frequent statements claiming attacks, while Moroccan officials have denied any hostilities.

The secretary general's report said both the Royal Moroccan Army and Polisario Front have regularly reported attacks to the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). It said 1,099 firing incidents, 22 infiltration attempts, and 724 reconnaissance flights by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were reported by the Moroccans from 13 November 2020 to 31 August.

“Based on reporting by the parties, the incidence of reported firing has decreased since January and has primarily been concentrated in the north of the territory near Mahbes,” the report said. Mahbes is the closest Western Saharan settlement to the Algerian city of Tindouf, where the rebels are based.

“While MINURSO did not identify major discrepancies in the number and the location of the firing incidents reported by the parties, their impact is the subject of contradicting claims,” the report noted. “Polisario Front has regularly claimed in their communiqués to be inflicting significant damage to the Moroccan side. Morocco has publicly refuted such claims and the Royal Moroccan Army has conveyed to MINURSO that they only return fire ‘in cases of direct threat against troops' and ‘always in proportion'.”

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