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Six Africans Killed in Clashes at Enclave

October 6, 2005

MELILLA, Spain (AP) _ Hundreds of desperate African immigrants rushed guard posts surrounding the Spanish enclave of Melilla, and the official Moroccan news agency reported Thursday that six Africans were killed in clashes with Moroccan security services.

Spain then said it would send 70 Africans who arrived illegally from Morocco back to that country. Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said the Mali men will be put on a ship bound for Morocco on Thursday evening.

Spain says it is acting under a never-enforced 1992 agreement with Morocco that lets it send back immigrants arriving from that country even if they are not Moroccan.

Under current Spanish law, the government lets African immigrants stay if they are from countries that do not have automatic repatriation agreements allowing Spain to send them back home. Most of the recent arrivals come from destitute sub-Saharan countries that lack such accords and refuse to take the people back.

Earlier, Morocco’s official news agency MAP, citing Abdellah Bendhiba, the governor of Nador province, said six Africans were killed overnight during a ``violent″ run by 400 immigrants on guard posts.

Security services responded in self-defense, the report said, adding that 290 people were arrested.

``During this assault, the clandestines displayed exceptional violence, obliging the security services to respond in the framework of legitimate defense,″ the report cited the governor as saying. ``Unfortunately, six of the assailants died.″

The causes of the deaths were not given.

News reports said nearly 1,000 Africans seeking to escape poverty and gain a foothold in this outpost of Europe tried to cross over into the tiny Spanish enclave, separated from Morocco by two razor wire fences.

MAP said Moroccan authorities ``deplore these dramas″ and will continue to work closely with Spanish authorities against the organizers of illegal immigration, who ``shamelessly exploit the distress of these victims.″

MAP said the Moroccan guard posts that were rushed were located in the Gourougou forest _ dense pines on a hill overlooking Melilla. Many would-be immigrants spend months living in forests on the Moroccan side waiting to cross over.

The latest rush was the sixth such mass attempt since last week at the borders of Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish enclave further west on Morocco’s coast. Five of the incidents were in Melilla, and about 700 men made it into Spain.

Hundreds also tried last week in Ceuta, where five would-be immigrants were shot and killed.

The two enclaves are the only part of the European Union that shares a border with Africa.

In the latest incident, Spanish National Television said the Africans tried to rush the border at several points along the fences, even at an area where the innermost of the two barriers has been doubled in height to 20 feet.

``They did not manage to get in,″ a police official said. ``There was a very strong police presence on both sides of the border.″

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, according to police rules.

Update hourly