• Short Summary

    Algerian prisoners, taken during a recent clash with the Moroccan army at desolate Amgala Oasis in Western Sahara, were shown to newsmen on Saturday (31 January).

  • Description

    Algerian prisoners, taken during a recent clash with the Moroccan army at desolate Amgala Oasis in Western Sahara, were shown to newsmen on Saturday (31 January).

    Amgala is 30 miles (50 kms) from Smara, the main Moroccan military base in the area.

    The Moroccans also displayed weapons and ammunition which fell into their hands during the battle at the Oasis on 26 and 17 January.

    Morocco officials claim to have taken 109 prisoners, and killed another 200 of the combined Algerian Army-Polisario Guerrilla force, for the loss of only two men and 14 wounded.

    Algeria has since claimed to have killed "several hundred" Moroccan soldiers and to have destroyed numerous tanks, armoured cars and lorries.

    Moroccan military sources have confirmed that Algerian troops control parts of Mauritania and three strong points in north-east Western Sahara.

    The disputed territory, formerly a Spanish colony, will be handed over by Spain to a joint Moroccan-Mauritanian administration at the end of February.

    Algeria had declared the agreement "null and void" and actively supports Polisario Front, a Saharan liberation movement.

    Western Sahara shares borders with Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania in North West Africa.

    Since the clash, Algeria and Morocco appear to be maintaining a virtual truce. Several Arab envoys are trying to resolve the dispute between the two countries.

    United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim has sent a special envoy to arrange for the self determination of the 74,000 Saharan people, in accordance with UN resolutions. Diplomatic observers say the UN intervention may boost Algeria's position.

    Despite the mediation efforts, there is still no sign of a compromise between Algeria and Morocco.

    SYNOPSIS: Amgala Oasis, the scene of a fierce two-day battle between the Moroccan army and combined Algerian army and guerrilla forces last week. The Algerians retreated before superior Moroccan forces.

    The Moroccans claim the "neutralised" the entire Algerian unit, killing about two hundred, and taking one hundred and nine prisoners, for the loss of only two men and fourteen wounded. Algeria in turn claims its men killed "several hundred" Moroccans and destroyed "numerous" tanks, armoured cars and lorries.

    Smara, the main Moroccan army base, thirty miles from Amgala, is thought to have been one of the Algerians' main objectives in their attempt to outflank the bulk of the Moroccan forces, estimated at ten thousand men.

    Under an agreement signed with spain last year, Morocco has been granted joint administration of Western Sahara with Mauritania. Algeria has declared the agreement null and void and supports the Saharan guerrilla liberation movement.

    These Algerians were among the prisoners taken by the Moroccans during the Amgala clash. They were shown to newsmen at the Moroccans' Smara base. The journalists were earlier shown some of the captured Algerian weapons and ammunition, including artillery and ground-to-air missiles. A Moroccan F-5 fighter was shot down by a missile in the area a week before.

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