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French Version

Morocco - Death toll rises to five in Morocco border incident

Five people were killed when hundreds of would-be immigrants tried to storm a border-crossing between Morocco and Spain's north African enclave of Ceuta, as the countries' prime ministers held a summit on illegal immigration. Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, speaking at a news conference during a summit between the prime ministers of Spain and Morocco, said there had been three deaths on the Moroccan side.

A spokesman for the Spanish branch of the SOS Racism group said the third person killed was a baby from Ivory Coast.

Defense Minister Jose Bono said Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had ordered him to deploy soldiers to help the Civil Guard patrolling the fences separating the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla from Morocco.

Two of the five Africans killed had bullet wounds indicating they were shot from the Moroccan side of the fence, news reports said

Sources close to the investigation told the national news agency Efe that bullets had passed through the side of one immigrant and through the buttock of the other. They said the trajectory meant they could only have been fired from Morocco.

The Interior Ministry could not comment on the report.

Zapatero met his Moroccan counterpart Driss Jettou in the southern Spanish city of Seville for talks on illegal immigration as well as the situation in the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara.

The overnight deaths were only the latest violence.

Previous attempts to scale the fortified fences with makeshift wooden ladders have led to deadly clashes between the would-be immigrants and Spanish and Moroccan border guards.

On Monday and Tuesday nights, about 1,000 would-be immigrants launched separate assaults on the border-crossing at Melilla, where two have died in previous attempts to scale the fence.

On Friday, Moroccan security officials said that two dead had been taken to a hospital in Tetouan in the north of the country after being shot with rubber bullets fired from the Spanish side.

The Spanish governor Ceuta, Jeronimo Nieto Gonzales, told Spain's radio Cadena Ser that two more people had died on Spanish territory from "injuries (sustained) during the crossing of the barrier or by crushing due to the human avalanche that occurred".

Local Spanish officials confirmed that two people had died and 28 had been injured to varying degrees.

A hospital source on the Moroccan side said a further 15 injured immigrants had been admitted, with one in a serious condition after being hit by a rubber bullet.

The European Commission lamented the "tragic" deadly unrest saying it "bears witness to the urgent need for a genuine and effective management of migration issues".

EU justice and home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini said the EU's strategy should be "hinged on a clear consolidation of legal immigration channels and of the situation of legal immigrants, as well as an effective asylum system."

Frattini vowed to boost cooperation with countries neighboring the 25-member bloc, to make them "partners" in tackling immigration.

Casablanca,10 03 2005
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The Daily Star
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