Moroccan woman dead after navy fires at migrant boat

Ship-in-MoroccoA Moroccan woman has died and three other people were left wounded after the country’s navy opened fire at a speedboat carrying migrants.

The Moroccan interior ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that a naval unit operating in the Mediterranean was “forced” to fire on the boat because its Spanish driver “refused to obey” orders.

The incident happened off the Moroccan locality of M’diq-Fnideq, official news agency MAP reported.

The woman who succumbed to her injuries in hospital was 22 years old and the three wounded – one in a critical condition with an amputated arm – were also Moroccans, Mohamed Benaissa, head of the Northern Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP news agency.

The Spanish driver of the boat was unharmed and later arrested, he said.

A total of 25 people were on the boat, including the people traffickers who were Spanish nationals, Benaissa added.

According to the interior ministry, the boat, which has been seized and an investigation opened, was illegally transporting migrants.

It was the second time in recent days that Morocco’s royal navy intervened to stop a boat suspected of carrying migrants across the Mediterranean, and comes amid growing concerns about migrant trafficking in the western Mediterranean region.

Morocco became the main launchpad for Europe-bound sub-Saharan African migrants in July after Italy took a tougher line and European Union aid to the Libyan coastguard stemmed flows from Libya.

So far this year, Moroccan officials said they foiled more than 54,000 crossing attempts to Europe.

Some 13 percent of those would-be migrants are Moroccans while the rest come from other African countries.

Since the beginning of September, social media networks in Morocco have been inundated with videos showing young people from the North African country heading to Spain on board inflatable boats.

More than 38,852 people have crossed into Spain up to mid-September, UN data shows, at least twice as many as during the same period of 2017.