In the disputed territory of the Western Sahara the Polisario Front independence movement has been celebrating the fourth anniversary of their struggle to create a separate state in the former Spanish colony, now officially divided between Morocco and Mauritania.
MV Crowds and Polisario troops waving flags and cheering in desert ceremony near Smara, Western Sahara
MV PAN & MVs Polisario chief Mohamed Abdelaziz (centre) on dais with others, watching troops standing to attention to Polisario flag (3 shots)
MVs Horsemen and infantry march past watching crowd (4 shots)
MVs & SVs Armed vehicles driving past and spectators (5 shots)
SV Vehicle with antitank gun driving by
GVs, MVs & SVs Children and women marching past (6 shots)
SV Abdelaziz and others touring camp
MVs Captured arms and vehicles (4 shots)
SV Prisoners lined up
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Background: In the disputed territory of the Western Sahara the Polisario Front independence movement has been celebrating the fourth anniversary of their struggle to create a separate state in the former Spanish colony, now officially divided between Morocco and Mauritania.
SYNOPSIS: A large crowd of Polisario guerrillas and their supporters gathered at a desert camp near Smara, in the Western Sahara on Friday (20 May) for the anniversary celebrations. Among them was Polisario chief Mohamed Abdelaziz -- centre on rostrum -- who reviewed the military parade.
The Polisario claims to have killed or injured 14,600 Moroccan and Mauritanian troops in over a year and a half of fighting. At a news conference, Mohamed Salem Ould Salek -- "Minister of Information" of the unilaterally-declared Saharan Democratic Arab Republic also criticised France and Spain for supplying arms to Morocco and Mauritania.
Over a year ago the Polisario declared the Western Sahara the Saharan Democratic Arab Republic, which, as an independent nation has been recognised by nine African states, including the Libyan Jamahiriyan and Algeria. During his news conference Monsieur Salek also said that the Polisario guerrillas had taken the initiative in the independence war. However, although the Moroccan government issued no formal reaction to the Polisario's casualty figures, sources in Rabat said the figure of 14,600 would represent half of all the Moroccan and Mauritanian troops based in the Western Sahara.
The sources added that the Moroccan troops fighting the Polisario are the pick of the 90,000 ??? Royal Armed Forces and are both well trained and well equipped. For their part, although supplied with sophisticated armaments and supported by Algeria in their endeavours, the Polisario are small in numbers, even if dedicated in intent.
Even the women and children of the Western Sahara play their part in t he war effort. May have suffered bitter privations as refugees and the infant mortality rate is high. However, for the able-bodied t here is always work to be done -- or occasionally -- time for marching.
Since the Polisario raid on the town of Zouerate in Mauritania a few ??? ago considerable international attention has been focused on the Western Sahara. But at the anniversary gathering no mention was made of the six French nationals taken as hostages following the raid. Instead captured arms and ammuni??? were on view, together with ??? and Maurit??? prisoners ???Polisari??? territory.