Thousands protest in Spain against Morocco raid

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Thousands of people demonstrated in the Spanish capital Saturday to condemn a deadly Moroccan raid on a camp in the disputed Western Sahara, a territory they accused Morocco of occupying.

Demonstrators burnt Moroccan flags and chanted "Free Sahara now", demanding Morocco quit the Western Sahara which it annexed after Spanish settlers withdrew in 1975.

"Morocco out, 35 years of occupation is enough", they shouted, also shouting "Morocco guilty, Spain responsible".

The Spanish government was "looking away" and not condemning "Morocco's crimes" in the former colony, charged protest organisers the National Coordination of Associations in Solidarity with Sahara.

Demonstrators included the leaders of Spain's two main labour unions and actor Javier Bardem, an activist for independence of the Western Sahara.

Moroccan security forces raided a camp in Western Sahara at dawn on November 8, using water cannon to disperse the settlement housing 12,000 people.

Moroccan officials say 12 people were killed, including 10 from their security forces.

But the Polisario Front, which opposes Moroccan rule in Western Sahara, said Moroccan forces killed dozens of people and wounded more than 4,500.

Spain on Friday demanded urgent explanation from Morocco about what happened.

The Polisario Front fought a guerrilla war against the Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991. It wants a UN-organised referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options.

Morocco has so far rejected any proposal that goes beyond greater autonomy.

© 2010 AFP

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