Rabat - The Polisario Front announced on Sunday the arrest of 19 people of Moroccan nationality originating from the Western Sahara on charges of drug trafficking in a likely attempt to divert attention from the drug trade within its own camps.
Rabat – The Polisario Front announced on Sunday the arrest of 19 people of Moroccan nationality originating from the Western Sahara on charges of drug trafficking in a likely attempt to divert attention from the drug trade within its own camps.
Pro-Polisario online media outlets claimed the 19 individuals were arrested in Aghchan Lbyad, near the region of Gueltat Zemmour on the eastern side of the security wall, while attempting to make a delivery of drugs.
The area where the 19 people were arrested, which the separatist group claims is a “liberated land”, is a buffer zone where Polisario has no legal sovereignty.
The separatist group used the arrest as propaganda to reiterate accusations against Morocco and talk once again of the kingdom’s “plots” to “smuggle” drugs into Tindouf camps.
“The overall number of traffickers is 19,” wrote the pro-Polisario news site Adamir quoting a source close to the presidency of the so-called Sahrawi Republic. “They are individuals with Moroccan citizenship. They were sent by the ‘Makhzen’ with a disgusting mission aiming to cause the region to sink in the quagmire of drugs and make it a major axis in the smuggling of Moroccan hashish to neighboring countries.”
The website added that the 19 arrested people are kept in Mejik, in what Polisario calls the “third military zone,” and that investigators from the front have been sent to interrogate them. According to the source, members of the United Nations Mission for Western Sahara (MINURSO) witnessed interrogations of the 19 individuals.
Futuro Sahara, another pro-Polisario news online outlet, cited a statement by the so-called Ministry of National Defense that “the Sahrawi government condemns those repeated and dangerous practices by the Moroccan occupation state which are part of a cunning policy in which a dirty war of poisonous drugs is used.”
The arrest of the 19 people accused of drug trafficking occurred a few days after several reports revealed that a war between drug networks in Tindouf camps had mounted.
SahrauiLibre, a Sahrawi news website reported that on July 3, the camp of Aousserd in Tindouf camps was home to clashes between two warring gangs over drugs.
The news was reported by several Moroccan media outlets and confirmed by Futuro Sahara.
On July 12, the website said that Polisario’s Prime Minister, Minister of Interior, Minister of Defense, and Secretary of State for Security and Documentation were summoned by the group’s parliament for questioning over the incident.
In another article the website talked about the security measures taken by the so-called Sahrawi Popular Army following “the events in Aousserd which uncovered the fragility of the security apparatus which is supposed to preserve public order.”
Mustafa Salma, a dissident Polisario activist and former police chief in Tindouf camps posted a picture on Facebook on Sunday of what he said was a clash between gangs near the camp of Boujdour, only 8 kilometers from the camp of Rabouni where Polisario’s leadership is based.
The “security measures” were described by Salma as merely aimed at “throwing dust into the eyes,” suggesting that Polisario leadership is not serious in fighting drugs and instability in the camps.
The announcement of the arrest of 19 Moroccans accused of drug trafficking might be an attempt to divert attention for its own internal drug war.
In recent years, Moroccan authorities have on numerous occasions accused the separatist group backed by Algeria of engaging in unlawful activities, including drug trafficking, and pointed the fact that man young Sahrawis from Tindouf are joining the ranks of radical groups in the region because of lack of opportunities in the Polisario run camps.
Abdelfattah El Fatihi, an expert on Western Sahara issue and Maghreb region, previously told Morocco World News that Polisario is seeking to diversify its sources of financing, which until now have come largely from Algeria.
“Polisario is facing a shortage of money so it had to look for it elsewhere. The only way to do so was to establish links with these groups which operate in a large unsecured area in the Algerian desert, Mali and Mauritania.”