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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.

The MAP agency, citing Abdellah Bendhiba, the governor of Nador province, said the 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 report did not elaborate.

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.

The Spanish government, facing a humanitarian crisis, said it will start expelling illegal immigrants back to Morocco as early as Thursday.

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.

Spain announced plans Wednesday to start expelling the illegal immigrants back to Morocco under a 1992 bilateral accord that Morocco never implemented.

Under current law, those who make it into Spain are allowed to stay if their country of origin has not signed an automatic repatriation agreement that would let Spain send them home.

That is the case with most of the sub-Saharan countries that are home to the hundreds of men that have arrived in Melilla over the past weeks and months. Their governments refuse to take them back.

The revived accord would let Spain expel them to Morocco even though they are not Moroccans.

``The citizens of Ceuta and Melilla, and of Spain in general, must be assured that this government guarantees the security of our borders,″ Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said after arriving in Melilla late Wednesday.

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