INTRODUCTION: While the outside world is told that fighting for control of the western Sahara is all but over, the Polisario Front continues to train soldiers in the desert enclave which the group calls the Sahara Arab Republic.
GVs & SV Polisario Front guerrillas marching in desert (3 shots)
GVs & CU Guerrillas firing at practice targets (3 shots)
Gv Women and children at nearby Polisario desert camp cheering and waving
GVs United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, touring camp (4 shots)
GV Women guerrilla trainees marching in desert
GV & SV INT Sahara Arab Republic (Polisario Front regime) Defence Minister Ibrahim Mustafa speaking to reporter in Arabic)
CU Captured Moroccan and Mauritanian weapons on display
SV Remains of aircraft on display
CU PAN ALONG Mauritanian and Moroccan officers' insignias and papers
SV Mustafa speaking to reporter (in Arabic)
Survival for the refugees in the desert is a constant struggle. The largely Nomadic people are used to high-protein meat diets which helped them withstand the drastic climate of the Sahara. Meat is now a rarity in the camps. The refugees eat mainly pasta, semolina or bread with a few vegetables. There is also a drastic lack in medical supplies and last summer about 18 children died each day because of a measles epidemic and of exhaustion or dehydration.
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Background: INTRODUCTION: While the outside world is told that fighting for control of the western Sahara is all but over, the Polisario Front continues to train soldiers in the desert enclave which the group calls the Sahara Arab Republic.
SYNOPSIS: The nationalist guerrillas, backed by Algeria, have been waging war against Morocco and Mauritania for a year now, since Spain divided its former colony between the two.
While Morocco's King Hassan claims the desert partisans are a spent force, the Polisario front continues announcing the death tolls incurred in the Moroccan and Mauritanian forces during fighting. On Monday (31 January) the guerrillas said they had killed about 800 soldiers in a month.
Meanwhile, dozens of refugee camps have been established throughout the desert to house the estimated 60 per cent of the residents of the former Spanish Sahara. They fled their homes when the country was divided. The camps are largely financed by the Algerian government and some reports estimate that it costs 25,000 pounds sterling a day just to feed and doctor the refugees. A recent visitor to one of the camps was the United Nations. High Commissioner for Refugees, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan.
An estimated 3,000 soldiers are currently being trained to swell the Polisario ranks, including these women. The aim is a vital campaign in their struggle to reverse the carve-up in territory. The initial target will be Mauritania, and guerrilla strikes to date have proved that country's vulnerability.
Last month, the Polisario Front met journalists and displayed weapons and soldiers they had captured in the fighting. Leading the Front's delegation was its Defence Minister, Ibrahim Mustafa. The captured military equipment included the latest modal Soviet Kalashnikov automatic rifles. There were also trucks of American manufacture, and some Mercedes Benz vehicles captured from the Mauritanians.
About 15 Moroccan and Mauritanian prisoners were also on display. They told the visiting journalists they were being treated well.