While a US delegation was visiting the disputed Western Sahara, a Polisario Front commander and three Sahrawi fighters were slain, according to the official Saharawi news agency SPS.
The Western Sahara conflict began in 1975 when colonial powerhouse Spain withdrew from the region, setting off a 15-year battle between Morocco and the Polisario, a group that seeks the independence of the region.
The Polisario agency reported that Abba Ali Hamudi, the leader of the sixth military region and a member of the national secretariat, died on the field of honor alongside three other combatants.
Three days of national mourning will begin on Saturday, according to the Sahrawi presidency.
The Moroccan Air Force used two Israeli-made drones in response to the conflict in the Mahbes region, according to the Saharan information website Ecsaharaui.
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The Moroccan side could not provide any confirmation.
In an effort to restart the UN-sponsored peace process in Western Sahara, a delegation from the United States headed by Assistant Secretary of State for North Africa Joshua Harris launched a visit to Sahrawi territory on Friday, according to SPS.
Another Sahrawi military officer, Addah Al-Bendir, the chief of the gendarmerie, was assassinated by a drone in Tifariti, a territory in the north governed by Polisario, in April 2021.
Rabat considers the entire Western Sahara, which is rich in phosphates and fisheries, to be its sovereign territory and controls approximately 80% of it.
The UN-supervised self-determination referendum that was agreed to in a 1991 cease-fire agreement but has yet to take place is still demanded by the Polisario.
The ceasefire, which had lasted nearly 30 years, ended in November 2020. To disperse Sahrawi demonstrators blocking the only road leading to Mauritania and the rest of Africa, which the Polisario claims was constructed after 1991 in contravention of the agreement, Morocco dispatched troops to the deep south of the Western Sahara.
The Sahrawis have claimed numerous clashes for almost three years, frequently claiming to have suffered losses at the hands of Rabat’s Moroccan allies.
The Western Sahara is a sizable desert region that borders the Atlantic Ocean. Its waterways are teeming with fish, and it has sizable phosphate reserves.