The 14-kilometer structure aims to protect civilian traffic and cross-border trade.
Rabat – Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces (FAR) have extended the country’s defensive wall to the Mauritanian border, Moroccan outlet Le360 reported, citing an anonymous government source. The Guerguerat crossing is now “completely secured,” according to a statement by the army’s General Staff.
A tumultuous day that started at approximately 9 a.m. with the lifting of Polisario’s blockade on trade and civilian traffic between Morocco and Mauritania has ended with the extension of the region’s sand wall. Army officers extended the structure by 14 kilometers to protect the border crossing. Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces dispersed armed Polisario militiamen in the morning, in an operation that started with preparations at 6 a.m. and commenced in earnest at 8 a.m. After forces cleared the region of Polisario militants, the FAR’s men and women had the remainder of the day to extend the defensive wall, the statement implied.
On a day marred by misinformation and provocative claims by Polisario leaders decrying war and an abandonment of the 1991 ceasefire, the wall can hopefully bring a calm to the region. The erection of a 2,700-kilometer wall across Morocco’s southern provinces brought an end to 20 years of fighting in 1991 by stopping raids from Algerian-backed militias.
According to FAR’s statement, the security belt is located four kilometers from the border crossing and will allow civilian traffic and trade with Mauritania to continue unimpeded.
The new defensive structure is part of the “Moroccan berm” or Moroccan sand wall lined with landmines that separate Morocco’s southern provinces from the arid area Polisario occupies. Before the start of the construction of the wall in 1980, Algerian-backed Polisario militias made frequent raids using trucks and small arms deep into Moroccan territory.
Morocco was able to stop these raids and bring both sides to the table for a ceasefire in 1991 after the wall blocked Polisario forces from entering Moroccan territory. Despite the controversial use of landmines and requiring a large force guarding the wall, the structure has helped support decades of peace in the region after years of fighting.
With the extension of the wall to the Mauritanian border, any incursions on the vital border crossing would have to go through Mauritania. Mauritanian forces have mobilized in the region in recent days and the military presence of both neighboring countries hopes to restore calm after weeks of escalating tensions.