Editorial | Republic Underground
April 16, 2021
This week a high-profile panel of lawyers, civil society, and policy experts sat down in a Republic Underground hosted roundtable to discuss the current status of Morocco’s recognized sovereignty in Western Sahara. In this discussion, topics of critical interest to develop in the region were raised. The conflict’s status escalated in November when Rabat motioned to open Western Sahara’s highway once more and to push back the rebellion’s influence that had cut off the highway from the rest of Africa. The panel likewise discussed elements of repatriating citizens of the occupied zone as Rabat works to reincorporate the region into the Kingdom.
The Polisario police leader was recently killed in an airstrike that reportedly used the assistance of an unarmed drone, which was reported by official press sources, including the Polisario’s press services. The outlet removed the announcement the evening after making it. Tsukerman addressed this, noting that the agency did not give any explanation for why it had done this. She addressed the panel regarding the incident.
The panel’s discussion focused on a news event that made international defense and security headlines. The following is a brief of the context of the discussed incident.
Get the full recap of the panel’s speaker remarks below. The Incident
The death of the Polisario police chief made its circulation in the news around the world. The Defense Post reported on April 12 that the Polisario Front had confirmed its police chief Addah al-Bendir “killed in the line of honor.” al-Bendir was killed near the Moroccan defense wall. The Defense Post referred to the death of the Polisario police chief as “a turning point” in the “decades-long” conflict. An official with the Polisario Front later told AFP that al-Bendir was killed by a Moroccan drone while taking part in a military operation near a sand barrier that marked the fighting line between federal Morocco and the rebellion’s formation.
A reported first
Speaking with The Defense Post, Moroccan military expert Mohamed Chiker stated it would be “hard to prove” that the Kingdom had carried out a strike with an armed drone.
Defense analysts speaking with Le Desk Morrocan news and the Moroccan news site Le 360 warned the attack could tell two things about the current status of the Polisario’s rebellion and the kingdom’s response.
Algeria is allowing Polisario units to sneak into Morocco from its border
The location of alBendir’s death has led was reported by multiple media outlets as near the Touizgui region near the Algerian border. This proximity to Algeria led analysts to conclude Algeria was allowing Polisario units to sneak into Morocco from its borders.
The Polisario’s press agency reported that alBendir’s death happened near Tifariti near the Mauritanian border in the Buffer Zone. The statement regarding Bender’s death at this location was later removed by Sahara Press Service, the official Polisario media service.
This raises the issue of the opacity of information and the disinformation war staged by Polisario and Algerian media outlets since the recent conflict erupted. In some instances, Algerian and Polisario media showed footages of combats in Yemen claiming they were attacks against the Moroccan armyDrone strategy signals new tactic for fielding off regional incursions
The LeDesk news site described more details of the attack, stating that an unarmed drone French-Israeli make Harfang drone unit located alBendir allowing a fighter jet to then carry out the airstrike. The use of the drone as part of the strike strategy would signal a changing tactic of Morocco. LeDesk reported that this would mean Morocco was mirroring “the United States and Israel” in its response to Polisario’s incursions.
The Defense post concluded that the use of a drone in the airstrike on alBendir was “an open question.” The death of al-Bendir itself, however, concludes that Morocco is in military control.