Polisario leader says 29-year ceasefire with Morocco is over
The leader of the Polisario Front, an independence movement in Africa’s Western Sahara, said on Saturday the group had ended a 29-year ceasefire with Morocco and will resume its armed struggle following a border confrontation.
Polisario is a rebel movement of the Sahrawi people living in the western part of the Sahara Desert. Its aim is to end Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara.
Polisario leader Ibrahim Ghali said in a statement carried by the group’s official news agency that he had signed a decree announcing the end of the group’s commitment to abide by a truce with Morocco, and blamed Rabat for breaking it.
Ghali also said Polisario fighters had attacked Moroccan positions along different parts of the frontline, which stretches hundreds of miles across the desert.
A collapse of the truce, which Morocco has said it intends to stick with, could reignite a long-dormant guerrilla war in the remote desert region and aggravate decades of friction between Morocco and neighboring Algeria, which hosts the Polisario.
Morocco’s military on Friday entered a buffer zone at the south of the territory to open a road blocked by Polisario supporters backed by armed fighters, an act the independence movement characterised as igniting war.
A diplomat familiar with the situation said on Friday that heavy weapons fire could be heard near the buffer zone from the direction of a Moroccan military build-up. Rabat said it had fired “warning shots”.
Morocco has held Western Sahara since Spain quit it in 1975 and regards it as part of its territory.