Leader of Western Sahara independence movement dies

by WorldTribune Staff, June 1, 2016

The leader of the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for Western Sahara from Morocco, has died, Algeria’s APS news agency reported.

Mohamed Abdelaziz, 69, died on May 31 “after a long illness,” the report said. Abdelaziz had been leader of the Algeria-backed Polisario Front since 1976.

Mohamed Abdelaziz
Mohamed Abdelaziz

“This is a great loss for the Sahrawi people,” Polisario official Mohammed Keddad told AFP. “He sacrificed his life for the liberation of Western Sahara. He embodied the wisdom and a sincere and firm commitment to its liberation.”

Local Sahrawi people continue to campaign for independence for Western Sahara, but Morocco considers the territory as part of the kingdom and insists its sovereignty cannot be challenged. In 2007, Morocco proposed a plan for autonomy under its sovereignty, but the plan was rejected by the Polisario Front which demands a referendum on self-determination.

In March of this year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with Abdelaziz and vowed to find a political solution in the Western Sahara.

Abdelaziz, born in 1946 in Marrakesh in Morocco, spent much of his life with Polisario fighters or Sahrawi refugees at camps in the Tindouf region of southwest Algeria.

In the late 1960s, Abdelaziz first met Sahrawi nationalist militants in Rabat and Casablanca, at Moroccan universities. With Mustapha Sayed El Ouali, he became a founder of the Polisario Front in May 1973 and one of its main military leaders.

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