Conflicting claims have been put forward about the number of people killed and the damage inflicted when Polisario Front guerrillas attacked the south Moroccan township of Tantan on January the twenty-eighth.
AERIAL VIEW Tantan township in southern Morocco.
MV "Kissing Camels" gate.
MV Soldier PAN ACROSS skyline of town.
MV Street scenes. (3 SHOTS)
GV City Wall with bullet and shell holes. (3 SHOTS)
MV PAN Moroccan troops standing by guns and trucks in desert. (2 SHOTS)
MV Moroccan army officer talking to newsmen beside map of Tantan drawn in sand. (2 SHOTS)
GV Newsmen milling around captured Algerian arms.
CU PULL BACK MV Captured Soviet-made gun.
MV PAN Captured rifles and ammunition.
MV PAN Captured burnt-out Landrovers.
(TELERECORDING) OPTICAL WIPE OUT TO GV Captured in Algeria.
MV PAN Captured Moroccan mortars and trucks on display. (2 SHOTS)
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Background: Conflicting claims have been put forward about the number of people killed and the damage inflicted when Polisario Front guerrillas attacked the south Moroccan township of Tantan on January the twenty-eighth.
SYNOPSIS: Tantan, three hundred and twenty kilometres (200 miles) south of Agadir, is a major supply base for twenty thousand Moroccan troops operating in the Western Sahara, one hundred kilometres (73 miles) farther south. Eyewitnesses said the guerrillas drove into the town on January the twenty-eighth, and firing broke out on all sides. The Front, which is fighting for independence of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, claimed they occupied Tantan for four hours and killed more than three hundred Moroccan troops.
But military leaders in Tantan said there were only thirty soldiers on hand to protect forty-five thousand civilians when the town was attacked. The Moroccan News Agency (MAP) reported on February the third that government forces suffered four dead and fourteen wounded. Five days later, Tantan's civil governor, Monsieur Mohamed Azmi, said only eight civilians and twelve auxiliary troops died in the town. Tantan's military leaders estimated the size of the attacking Polisario force at between five hundred and six hundred heavily-armed men. The local military commander, Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Lahlou, said the town had been shelled for more than an hour from a distance of four kilometres (2.5 miles).
Reuters news agency reported on Thursday (8 February) that foreign journalists who visited Tantan the day before saw little damage -- no demolished buildings or signs of fire. The Polisario Front is backed by Algeria, and the Western Sahara has been disputed since it was divided between Morocco and Mauritania in 1976.
Meanwhile, a Palisario communique issued in Algiers on Wednesday (7 February) claimed its forces had killed almost eighteen hundred Moroccans and wounded almost fourteen hundred in some eighty operations during the past month. The communique said the Polisario Front had captured seventy-three Moroccan soldiers, while forty-six others had joined Polisario ranks, and more than a hundred Saharans held in Morocco had been released. On Tantan, this communique said Moroccan casualties were three hundred and fourteen dead and three hundred wounded. Polisario displayed large amounts of military equipment captured in various battles.