Sahara: the killing of two Mauritanian miners reignites tensions in the region

The victims, two gold diggers, were involved in an alleged bombing carried out by a Moroccan attack drone

Mauritanian gold miners

Tension rises in the region of Sahara after two Mauritanian gold miners were killed in an alleged bombing by a Moroccan attack drone. According to the information website "Assahifa", which also cites Mauritanian media, the aerial bombardment targeted a car carrying at least three people, two of whom died, while the third sustained injuries and burns. of varying severity and was transferred to Mauritania to receive health care. The incident took place in the buffer zone near the area of Kleib El Folat, a short distance from the Moroccan security wall, where sporadic clashes between the forces of Rabat and the militias of the Polisario Front. The attack occurred while an important visit is underway in Nouakchott by a government delegation from Algeria, a country that supports the Polisario Front and is a regional rival of Morocco. Not only. In Mauritania there is also the special envoy of the United Nations Secretary General for Western Sahara, the Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura, fresh from some talks in Tindouf with the Sahrawi leaders and in Algiers with Algerian officials.

The images reported by some websites in Western Sahara and Mauritania show that the car targeted would be similar to the off-road vehicles used by the Polisario men in their movements within the buffer zone. At the moment there is still no official confirmation of the incident, but it is not the first time that Mauritanian miners have been hit by Israeli-made Moroccan drones. There Mauritanian Mines Company, affiliated with the Mauritanian government, had previously warned gold miners not to leave the country's borders to avoid falling victim to the clashes between the Polisario and the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces. A similar incident occurred in late 2020, when two other Mauritanian gold miners were killed in an airstrike after entering the restricted military zone. What is striking this time is the timing of the bombing, which took place while Mauritania is about to sign important agreements with Algeria that could remove Nouakchott from the orbit of Rabat and potentially change the geopolitical structure of the entire region.

Among the most important projects, the construction of the connecting road project should be noted tindouf (Algeria) a Zouerate (Mauritania) and covers over 773 kilometers. In this regard, the Algerian and Mauritanian parties have agreed on a protocol for the implementation of the memorandum of understanding for this project in the preparatory meetings of the Joint Committee held in recent days. According to the Algerian news agency "Aps", the construction of this road is of strategic and geopolitical importance, because it places Mauritania at the center of the two corridors (Cairo-Dakar and Algiers-Dakar) and allows it to have a road connection with three states (Algeria, Tunisia and Libya). The road fits "in the wake of the steps taken by Algeria in view of a path towards a Maghreb connected at all levels", underlines the Algerian government press. The Director of Arab-African Cooperation Relations at the Algerian Ministry of Energy and Mines, Aoufa Sofiane, has also announced that the question of the supply of petroleum products in the Mauritanian market should lead to the finalization of a cooperation protocol between the Algerian company Sonatrach and the Mauritanian hydrocarbon company.

It is worth mentioning that Algeria broke off diplomatic relations with Morocco in August 2021, accusing Rabat of "hostile acts". A decision "completely unjustified", according to Rabat. The main dispute between the two Maghreb countries concerns the territory of Western Sahara. The status of this former Spanish colony, considered by the United Nations "non-autonomous territory", he opposed Morocco to the Sahrawi separatists of the Polisario Front, supported by Algiers, since the 70s. Rabat, which controls nearly 80 percent of this territory, supports an autonomy plan under its sovereignty. The Polisario instead calls for a self-determination referendum under the aegis of the UN. Furthermore, Algeria, a supporter of the Palestinian cause, never misses an opportunity to denounce the growing cooperation, in particular military, of Morocco with "the Zionist entity", namely Israel.

Morocco controls and governs most of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara since 1975 and claims sovereignty over the stretch of southern desert territories, rich in phosphates and potential hydrocarbon deposits. The annexation of Western Sahara to Morocco with the "Green March" provoked a rebellion by the Polisario Front, in turn supported by neighboring Algeria. The United Nations negotiated a ceasefire in 1991, which was then interrupted in November 2020. The Polisario Front proclaimed the independence of the so-called Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic on February 27, 1976. To date, however, the Republic is recognized by about 80 countries, but not from the United Nations and the European Union: half of these states have however "frozen" recognition for various reasons. On the contrary, more and more nations - including Israel and the United Arab Emirates - recognize Morocco's authority in the former Spanish colony.

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