Morocco clashes turn more violent

Protesters clash with security forces during a demonstration against corruption and employment in the northern Rif region, Al- Hoceima. PHOTO | AFP 

The 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 where security forces intervened in strength," said one witness.

The source said women were attacked as youths dispersed into sideroads started throwing stones, while the police used tear gas, in a protest that injured several protesters in the 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 that left a policewoman wounded.

The website says security forces asked the perpetual demonstrators to disperse but they were pelted with stones in return.

Increased protests

The increasing 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, [Popular Movement], has been holding protests for weeks in the neglected Rif region of northern Morocco, demanding jobs and an end to corruption.

Demonstrations occur at night, after the breaking of the daytime fast observed during the holy 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.

Demand for justice

Al-Hoceima is experiencing worsening social unrest since the gruesome death in October of a fishmonger, crushed in a rubbish truck as he tried to retrieve swordfish thrown away by the authorities claimed to have been caught out of season.

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

Around 100 people were killed 36 years ago in a police crackdown on protesters in Morocco’s largest city, who were demonstrating against increased cost of food.

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

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