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Algeria accuses Morocco of 'targeted killings' of three people near Western Sahara

Algeria's foreign ministry accused Morocco of 'repetitive acts of state terrorism' that could have 'serious implications' for regional security
A bulldozer passes by a hilltop manned by Moroccan soldiers on a road between Morocco and Mauritania in Guerguerat in Western Sahara on 23 November, 2020 (AFP)

Algeria accused Morocco on Tuesday of "targeted killings" of three people near the disputed area of Western Sahara, as relations between the two countries continues to deteriorate.

Media linked to the Polisario Front reported a Moroccan air strike early Sunday against trucks close to the border between the desert territory and Mauritania, killing three people of unknown nationalities.

The alleged killings could not be independently verified, and neither Morocco nor Mauritania have commented.

"Algeria vigorously condemns the Kingdom of Morocco's targeted killings, with sophisticated weaponry, outside of its internationally recognised borders," Algeria's foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said those killed were "innocent civilians from three countries in the region", without adding details.

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The ministry accused its neighbour of "repetitive acts of state terrorism" that could have "serious implications" for regional security.

Tensions between the longtime foes flared last November after Algeria accused Morocco of killing three of its citizens on a desert highway in the Western Sahara.

Western Sahara is 80 percent controlled by Morocco, which sees the former Spanish colony, rich in phosphates and adjacent to bountiful Atlantic fishing waters, as an integral part of its own territory.

Algeria has long hosted and supported the Polisario Front, which seeks full independence in Western Sahara and has demanded a referendum, as provided for in a 1991 ceasefire deal.

In November, the Polisario declared the 30-year truce "null and void" after Moroccan forces broke up a blockade of a highway into Mauritania, which the independence movement said was built in violation of the ceasefire.

Former US President Donald Trump broke with long-held diplomatic norms in 2020 to recognise Morocco's claim to the territory, as part of a quid pro quo for Rabat's normalisation of ties with Israel.

The Biden administration has generally stood by the Trump era decision, while refraining from flat-out recognition of Rabat's claim of soveirenty over the disputed territory.

On a visit to Morocco last month, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman voiced support for Morocco's autonomy plan for the Western Sahara, calling it "serious, credible, and realistic, and a potential approach to satisfy the aspirations of the people of the region".