The head of the Polisario Front gendarmerie was killed by a Moroccan drone strike in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, a senior Saharawi military official told AFP on the night of Wednesday 7 to Thursday 8 April.
“The commander of the national gendarmerie, the martyr Addah Al-Bendir, fell on Tuesday in the field of honor, where he was on a military mission in the liberated zone of Rouss Irni, in Tifariti”, a locality located in the north of the territory and under Polisario control, had earlier announced a press release from the Saharawi defense ministry published by the official SPS press agency, without further details. The agency removed the military statement from its site in the evening, without explanation.
This military leader, born in 1956 and who joined the Polisario in 1978, was killed “Following a drone attack”, then told AFP a senior Saharawi military official, on condition of anonymity. “Addah Al-Bendir had just participated in an attack in the area of Bir Lehlou against the wall” of sand that separates the two camps for more than a thousand kilometers in Western Sahara, explained the official. “A few hours later, about a hundred kilometers from the site of the attack on the Moroccans, a drone killed the chief of the gendarmes in the Tifariti region. He died in liberated Sahrawi territory ”, he added.
The circumstances of this death remain unclear, however, with some unconfirmed reports of a drone strike in the Touizgui region in southern Morocco. It was not possible to obtain information from an official source in Rabat. This is the first time, it seems, that the Moroccan army has resorted to a deadly drone strike in the conflict that has pitted it against the Sahrawi independence movement for decades. No information has officially filtered on the acquisition of drones by Morocco.
Brahim Ghali “survived”
For its part, the FAR-Maroc Forum, an unofficial Moroccan armed forces Facebook page, claimed that “Several leading elements” the Polisario, including the head of the gendarmerie, ” are dead “ after an operation by the Moroccan army following “Suspicious movements of Polisario leaders inside the buffer zones”. Present, Brahim Ghali, the leader of the independence movement, ” survived “ to the Moroccan operation, added this generally well-informed forum without further details.
After almost thirty years of ceasefire, hostilities between the Polisario and Morocco resumed in mid-November following the deployment of Moroccan troops in a buffer zone in the far south of Western Sahara to dislodge separatists who blocked the only trade route to West Africa, because this route is illegal according to them.
For the first time in decades, armed clashes between the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army (ALPS) and Moroccan forces, according to the Ministry of Defense of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). The ALPS claims daily attacks “Targeting the positions of the Moroccan occupation forces along the sand wall”, as well as Moroccan human and material losses, without it being possible to verify the authenticity of an independent source.
The Polisario, which proclaimed the SADR in 1976, continues to demand the holding of a referendum planned by the UN at the time of the signing of a ceasefire between the belligerents in 1991. Morocco, which controls approximately 80% of this vast desert territory, a former Spanish colony, offers an autonomy plan under its sovereignty.