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Police, protesters clash in northern Morocco

Police and protesters have clashed in the restive Moroccan Rif region, which has been the scene of social unrest following the death of a fishmonger late last year.

The violence erupted in the town of Imzouren early on Saturday after police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of youths, who were wearing balaclavas and throwing stones at security forces.

Sources said police deployed forces and around 50 vehicles in the area to stop demonstrators from gathering. The clashes ended before dawn, with no immediate reports of casualties.

Recently, demonstrations have been held particularly in the city of al-Hoceima, close to Imzouren.

While the government has been calling for calm, the Rif region has been the scene of non-stop unrest since Mouhcine Fikri, the fishmonger, was killed inside a garbage compactor in October 2016.

The 31-year-old had climbed into the compactor to retrieve his merchandise seized by local officials but was pressed to death when the compactor was activated. There are allegations that the local officials at the scene knew he was inside when they started the machine. The government has denied that accusation, however.

A demonstrator holds a picture of Nasser Zafzafi, a protest leader in Morocco’s Rif region, during a demonstration against corruption, repression, and unemployment, in the northern city of al-Hoceima, May 29, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Protesters have also rallied nightly in the port city since the arrest on May 29 of Nasser Zefzafi, who emerged as the leader of a popular protest movement but was charged with threatening national security, among other offenses.

Some Moroccan activists describe the unrest in al-Hoceima as the “unfinished business” of the Moroccan “Arab Spring” activists.

Arab Spring refers to a series of uprisings and revolutions that started across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 against despotic rule, unemployment, inflation, and corruption, among other issues.

The Moroccan king, Mohamed VI, relinquished some of his powers back then, but the death of Fikri gave rise to new protests.

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