Morocco Clashes turn more violent

A local official in Al-Hoceima blamed youth protesters for the clashes and said a policewoman was wounded.

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Morocco's neglected Rif region has seen weeks of protests demanding jobs and an end to corruption play

Morocco's neglected Rif region has seen weeks of protests demanding jobs and an end to corruption

(AFP/File)
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Nightly clashes between protesters and Moroccan security forces in the flashpoint city of Al-Hoceima over the region's marginalisation are turning more violent, a witness and a news website said Friday.

"Around 100 residents gathered on an avenue (on Thursday night) to demonstrate. Security forces intervened in strength," said one witness, contacted by telephone.

"They were hitting people. Youths dispersed into sideroads and started throwing stones, while the police used tear gas," the source said, adding that women were also attacked and several protesters hurt in running battles.

Le Desk, a news website, said: "The nightly confrontations... are turning into a riot... into pitched battles with police, with stones being thrown and tear gas fired."

A local official in Al-Hoceima blamed youth protesters for the clashes and said a policewoman was wounded.

"As usual a small group of youths, teenagers and minors went out on the streets to demonstrate. The security forces asked them to disperse but they were pelted with stones," the source said.

"It was an avalanche of stones that fell on the security forces and the police had to retaliate with tear gas. A policewoman was injured in the head," the source added.

The stepped up protests come after a court on Wednesday sentenced 25 demonstrators and suspected members of their grassroots movement to 18 months in jail each, according to their defence lawyer.

The Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or Popular Movement, has been holding protests for weeks in the neglected Rif region of northern Morocco, demanding jobs and an end to corruption.

The demonstrations have been taking place at night, after the breaking of the daytime fast observed during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Hirak leader, Nasser Zefzafi, was arrested on May 29 and is in custody in Casablanca awaiting trial, along with other leaders of the movement.

Al-Hoceima has been rocked by worsening social unrest since the gruesome death in October of a fishmonger, who was crushed in a rubbish truck as he tried to retrieve swordfish that had been thrown away by the authorities because it had been caught out of season.

Demands for justice snowballed into the wider grassroots movement.

Meanwhile authorities have banned a demonstration called for by activists and labour unions to mark the anniversary next Tuesday of the June 20, 1981 food riots that shook Casablanca.

Around 100 people were killed 36 years ago in a police crackdown on protesters in Casablanca who were demonstrating against an increase in the cost of food.

Authorities have banned the commemoration of the riots, fearing the event could lead to further "disturbances".

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