Why the Fight Over Western Sahara Is Heating Up Again


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Tensions are rising in Western Sahara, a large strip of desert stretching along the Atlantic coast north of Mauritania. Formerly a Spanish colony, the area has been claimed for the past half-century by both Morocco and the independence-seeking Polisario Front, which each control part of it for now. In November, the Polisario ditched a 30-year cease-fire with Morocco and has since claimed daily attacks on Moroccan military personnel.

Western Sahara Tensions

A 30-year cease fire has ended between Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)

Sources: Natural Earth, OpenStreetMap

1. How serious is the escalation?

The Moroccan army hasn’t confirmed or denied any attacks. Even so, Moroccan soldiers have extended a section of walls along the border with Algeria, which backs the Polisario, to make it harder for the group’s fighters to cross over from there. In early March, the International Crisis Group, an independent organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflicts, urged the United Nations to appoint an envoy to mediate a deescalation, saying the situation was volatile and could rapidly worsen.

2. What sparked these tensions?





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