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80 injured as police advance on Rif protests

July 21, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Vehicles on fire during a protest demanding the release of detainees in Al Hoceima, Morocco on 21 July 2017 [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]

Seventy-two security forces and 11 civilians have been wounded following violent police intervention at a protest in Al-Hoceima, on the northern edge of the Rif Mountains in Morocco.

The injured were “transferred to hospital to receive the necessary care,” with a few remaining in hospital in critical condition, according to Huffington Post Morocco.

Two police vehicles were set on fire by demonstrators in the nearby town of Ajdir as protesters took to the street defying a ban yesterday on demonstrations in Al-Hoceima.

Protesters uploaded images and videos to social networks of the violent intervention last night as police fired tear gas and used truncheons to scatter hundreds of protesters. Demonstrators calling for the release of detained activists were arrested.

Read: Video of detained Rif protest leader shows no torture marks

Police forces blockaded Mohammed VI square, ordered demonstrators gathered there to leave and stopped people entering the city at checkpoints where they were searched, questioned and registered.

Internet access has been cut and taxi drivers banned from helping demonstrators get into the city.

The demonstrations have been taking place regularly in northern Morocco since October and are the largest protests the country has seen since the Arab Spring in 2011.

The protesters have rallied against injustice, corruption and underdevelopment in the region. Many have been handed prison sentences as a result.

Read: Morocco jails 10 Rif activists

“Every time we come out, they don’t even let us protest peacefully,” 19-year-old Warda told the Daily Star Lebanon. “Our demands are simple; we want universities, and hospitals.”

Protesters were furious when a fishmonger died after being crushed inside a rubbish truck while trying to save his produce that had been confiscated by police.

Mouhcine Fikri’s death has since become a symbol of “hogra” – a colloquial term for the deprivation of dignity due to the abuse of power and injustice.

The main force driving the protests has been the Al-Hirak Al-Shaabi movement – The Popular Movement – lead by Nasser Zefzafi who was detained in May along with 100 others in the following days.