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Morocco's police clash with Rif protesters as head of government calls for talks

Protesters from Rif movement shout slogans during a demonstration against the government in Al-Hoceima [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 June, 2017

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Dozens of youths wearing balaclavas threw stones at security forces, who responded with tear gas.

Protesters clashed with security forces in Morocco's Al-Hoceima early on Saturday, after weeks of protests in the northern province.

The violence broke out in the town of Imzouren after police tried to stop demonstrators from gathering, activists said.

Dozens of youths wearing balaclavas threw stones at security forces, who responded with tear gas, the correspondent said.

The clashes ended before dawn, with the police deploying around 50 vehicles in the area.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

Meanwhile, the Moroccan government spokesperson, Mustapha Khalfi, announced on Thursday that the head of government is soon to visit Al-Hoceima.

Saad Eddine Othmani’s is visitng Al-Hoceima to “boost development projects that the government announced in response to the demands of the population”, according to Morocco World News.

However, the date for the visit has not yet been set.

The protests in the Berber dominated Rif region can be traced back to October 2016 when Mouhcine Fikri, a fishmonger in Al-Hoceima tried to prevent government backed city authorities from destroying his merchandise - swordfish that were banned during the season.

The 31-year-old was crushed as he was run over by a rubbish truck while protesting. A photo of him circulated on social networks, showing him dead, his head and his arm surpassing the compacting mechanism.

The Rif region began to instigate calls for justice for Fikri, in a movement which quickly evolved into grassroots calls demanding jobs and economic development.

Nasser Zefzafi soon emerged as the leader of the al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or the "Popular Movement".

Since Zefzafi's arrest, two women, Nawal Ben Aissa and Cilia Ziani, have emerged as leaders of the al-Hirak movement.

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