Polisario Front guerrillas, claiming to be fighting the bloodiest battle in their three-year war against Morocco, said on Tuesday (9 October) they were still prepared to negotiate on the future of the Wester Sahara.
SCU Polit bureau member of the Polisario guerrillas, Nouredine Ahmad Al, speaking in Arabic
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Background: Polisario Front guerrillas, claiming to be fighting the bloodiest battle in their three-year war against Morocco, said on Tuesday (9 October) they were still prepared to negotiate on the future of the Wester Sahara. The Polisario Front said its guerrillas had killed more than 1,200 Moroccans at the garrison town of Smara over the last week. The Moroccans maintained that more than 1,000 Polisario guerrillas had been killed, for the loss of 121 of their own troops.
SYNOPSIS: A Polisario spokesman said at a news conference in Beirut on Tuesday that the battle was still raging around the Western Sahara's largest town. He said King Hassan of Morocco had rushed reinforcements to the area. But the spokesman claimed the battle would not alter the Polisario's readiness to negotiate with Morocco.
Morocco said the battle for Smara ended on Sunday (7 October) night after its aircraft struck at the attacking force. It said more than 1,000 guerrillas out of a 5,000-strong force were killed in the fighting. The Polisario, which is fighting for independence in the mineral-rich Western Sahara, claims it destroyed Smara's airfield and three Moroccan aircraft in the battle.
The Polisario said there were 4,000 Moroccan troops at the Smara garrison when the fighting began. The town forms part of Morocco's defensive triangle in the former Spanish colony, with the capital of El Ayun and the phosphate fields of Bu Craa.
The Western Sahara was ceded by Spain to Morocco and Mauritania in 1976, but Mauritania gave up all claims to the territory under a peace agreement with the Polisario Front last August. Morocco annexed the part of the territory formerly held by Mauritania and the Algerian-backed Polisaros stepped up their campaign as a result.