CASABLANCA, Morocco – Hundreds of thousands of Moroccans demonstrated Sunday against a Spanish political party's criticism of their country's raid on a protest camp in Western Sahara.
Some protesters carried red and green Moroccan flags or photographs of King Mohammed VI. They chanted slogans attacking Spain's conservative opposition Popular Party, which has strongly criticized Morocco's role in recent events in the disputed Western Sahara.
The official Moroccan news agency, MAP, said nearly 3 million people took part, a claim that appeared inflated.
On Nov. 9, Moroccan forces tore down a tent camp in Western Sahara where 20,000 people were protesting discrimination and deprivation at the hands of the Moroccan government. Morocco claims the territory and is locked in a conflict with a local independence movement called the Polisario Front.
Spain's Popular Party pressed for a debate on the Western Sahara situation at the European Parliament. Following that debate, the parliament asked for an independent United Nations investigation into what happened — which angered Morocco.
Morocco has defended the police action to break up the camp, saying there were no deaths among the native Saharawi people but 10 police officers died in the operation and the ensuing violence. The Polisario Front has claimed that 36 people were killed and over 700 injured.
Spain has followed the situation in Western Sahara closely because the region is a former Spanish colony.
Moroccan protesters were also angry that some Spanish news organizations ran a 2006 photo of injured children in Gaza Strip to illustrate what they said was fallout from Morocco's raid on the camp. The photo had been provided from supporters of the Saharawi independence movement. Spain's national news agency Efe and El Pais newspaper were among those to acknowledge the error.