Tensions escalating between North African rivals Algeria and Morocco
Algeria’s accusation last week that Morocco targeted Algerian civilians in the disputed territory of Western Sahara has raised fears of further escalation between the North African rivals.
Algeria's accusation on Wednesday that Morocco had killed three civilians driving in the Sahara on Monday has sharply raised the stakes. The incident comes after Algeria recently cut diplomatic relations, stopped supplying gas to Morocco and blocked Algerian airspace to Moroccan flights.
Ties between the countries have been fractious for years, but have deteriorated since last year after the Algeria-backed Polisario Front said it was resuming its armed struggle for the independence of Western Sahara, a territory Morocco sees as its own.
Morocco's King Mohammed gave a speech about Western Sahara on Saturday but made no mention of Algeria’s accusation. It was in line with Morocco's practice since soon after Algeria broke off ties in August in ignoring all statements coming from Algiers.
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune vowed in a statement that the death of the three men "would not go unpunished".
Morocco has not formally responded to the accusation.
Morocco sees Western Sahara as its own, but the territory's sovereignty has been disputed by the Polisario Front, an Algeria-backed independence movement.
The U.N. peacekeeping force in Western Sahara, MINURSO, visited the site of the incident in territory outside Moroccan control and found two badly damaged Algerian-plated trucks, a U.N. spokesperson said on Friday. The spokesperson said MINURSO was looking into the incident.
Morocco's normalisation of ties with Israel last year as a
quid pro quo for US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara
has also angered Algeria.