This month is the seventh anniversary of the formation of the Polisario Front - an Algerian-backed organisation representing the people of the Western Sahara in their struggle for independence.
SV INTERIOR Polisario Front spokesman Habib-Ellah (furthest from camera) and colleagues stand with heads bowed before sitting.
SV SHOT CONTINUES Habib-Ellah speaking in Arabic.
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: This month is the seventh anniversary of the formation of the Polisario Front - an Algerian-backed organisation representing the people of the Western Sahara in their struggle for independence. To mark the anniversary, a Front spokesman held a news conference on Wednesday (21 May). He told reporters at the Polisario's headquarters in Algiers that the struggle would continue until victory for the Saharans was won.
SYNOPSIS: The Front's anniversary coincided with a new phase in the four-year desert war between the Front and Morocco. Habib Ellah's statement to newsmen branded as "shameful" the Spanish and Moroccan colonialisation and occupation of the Western Sahara.
But the Front's struggle to free the oil and mineral rich territory from Moroccan control has recently faced new large-scale operations by Moroccan forces. The Polisario's hit-and-run tactics of a year ago, changed to bigger attacks, in an effort to cut northern Morocco from the newly acquired Saharan provinces. But the attacks on Moroccan strongholds like Dakla Zag and the "holy" city of Smara were reported as Polisario defeats.
This month the Moroccan forces launched an intense military operation reportedly involving about twenty thousand troops, to release, what the Polisario claim was the isolated garrison of Zag. But the continuing situation has resulted in a war of words, with each side making claims and counterclaims. The moroccan general in the area denied the garrison had ever been isolated by the Polisario.
In the new offensive, The Times of London, quoting a report by Agence France-Presse said that Moroccan General Ahmed Dlimi had set up a joint command to improve co-operation between the Air Force and Army. This tactic was said to have paid off immediately with Moroccan aircraft seeking out and attacking columns of Polisario vehicles.
The battle continues with conflicting reports of heavy losses by both sides. Moroccans claim they have greatly reduced the original guerrilla force, but that the Polisario can replanish their ranks with tribesmen fleeing the drought in Mali and Niger.