Tensions in the Western Sahara have worsened with Mauritania claiming proof of Algerian military involvement in guerrilla attacks.
MV: Polisario prisoners with officers under armed guards and lined up outside building. (2 shots)
MV PAN: prisoners line up
MV: first prisoner questioned by Mauritanian.
MV: second prisoner questioned.
MV: third prisoner answering questions as others look on. (3 shots)
Background: Tensions in the Western Sahara have worsened with Mauritania claiming proof of Algerian military involvement in guerrilla attacks. Last year, Western Sahara was partitioned between Mauritania and Morocco. The Polisario Front, which had earlier declared an independent Saharan Arab Democratic Republic, has been fighting a guerilla war against the two countries every since. It has received strong backing from Algeria although that country has repeatedly denied any guerrilla activity by its own troop.
SYNOPSIS: But Mauritania has now produced evidence which it claims proves that Algerian troops have been fighting in Moroccan and Mauritanian territory. At a recent news conference in the capital Nouakchott, the Mauritanians produced three prisoners captured among Polisario guerillas. The three say they were regular soldiers in the algerian army. Earlier this week King Hassan of Morocco warned that in future his troops would pursue across Algerian borders any forces violating Moroccan frontiers. Algeria replied that such action would be seen as a declaration of war and would meet an appropriate response.
The Algerian Government news paper El Chaab has accused Morocco of close military cooperation with France against the Algerian revolution.
It claimed Morocco was trying to avoid the fundamental issue by spreading a smoke screen over Morocco's successive military defeats in the Spanish Sahara and elsewhere. Algeria would be the first to joint its Moroccan brothers in defending Moroccan frontiers, El Chaab said, providing the borders were those existing before the partitioning of the Spanish Sahara.
The second Algerian interviewed claimed to be too frightened to talk:
But the third prisoner, born in Tindouf, not only said he had taken part in attacks on the Mauritanian mining town of Zouerate but also claimed he had been ordered by his superiors to attack civilian and soldier alike without quarter, and with no regard for nationality.
Such claims are likely to concern the French government which is seeking the release of eight French nationals taken hostage by the Polisario this year. They are believed to be alive but President Giscard d'Estaing announced this week that he had evidence the French prisoners were not being treated in accordance with the rights of man.
In Algeria there is strong anti-French feeling at present because of the feared threat of French intervention in Western Sahara.
During the week thousands of demonstrators, chanting 'Giscard murderer', protested in Algiers and burnt an effigy of President Giscard murderer', protested in Algiers and burnt an effigy of President Giscard in the street.