domingo, 12 de abril de 2009

Five Saharawis injured by landmine blast during peaceful protest against Moroccan wall in Western Sahara

Five Saharawis were injured in Rouss Essabty on Friday, 70 km from the Saharawi refugee camps, when a 19-year-old boy stepped on a landmine.

The victims, along with 3,000 other Saharawis and international activists, were participating in a peaceful protest against the Moroccan wall that divides the Western Sahara.

The blast occurred when the five victims were attempting to approach the wall by clearing a path through a barbed wire barrier that surrounds it, which is known to the Saharawis as the Wall of Shame. Three of the victims, identified as Ibrahim Hussein Abait, Hamdi Fadli Adbelahi and Mohamed Salim Bouda Larossi, were passing through an active minefield with more than 300 other demonstrators.

Ibrahim, from the Saharawi refugee camp of Dakhla, suffered the gravest injury, losing more than half of his left foot in the explosion. Hamdi and Mohamed sustained minor burns and shrapnel wounds to their faces, arms and backs.

Luckily, Saharawi doctors and members of Landmine Action (LMA), a British NGO working to de-mine the Western Sahara, had accompanied the protestors to the wall. The group had emergency first-responders on-hand who dressed the victims’ wounds and evacuated the three from the zone. Ibrahim was taken to a hospital in Tindouf, Algeria, and the other four were taken to the SADR National Hospital in Rabouni.

The protest in which the five were participating was called to the International March against the Wall of Shame. During their peaceful march, they formed a human chain in the desert to call for the destruction of this partition and to show support for Saharawi people’s right to self-determination.

During the protest, which was organized by the National Union of Saharawi Women (UNMS), the 2,000 foreign participants joined hundreds of Saharawis to express their fervent condemnation of the continued presence of the wall, which extends 2,500 km and which is surrounded by millions of Moroccan anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines.

By tearing apart friends and families, the wall, which was built by Morocco in the 1980s, has augmented the suffering of Saharawis both in the Occupied Territories and the refugee camps in Algeria.

According to a representative from Landmine Action, there are over 7 million landmines located around the Wall of Shame, and most have been planted using methods that violate international norms. To alert the international community of this danger, LMA has been hosting conferences for the past week to raise awareness about the perilous situation here in the Western Sahara.

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