Bethesda, Maryland, USA, 06/03/2016 /SubmitPressRelease123/
The secretary general of the Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz, 68, died of lung cancer on May 31, 2016.
Abdelaziz was elected leader of the Polisario, a movement fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, in August 1976 when he succeeded the Polisario’s founder and first Secretary General, El Ouali Mustapha Sayed.
While Algerians claimed that Sayed was killed on the battlefield while fighting against Mauritania in June 1976, some former Polisario members who left the organization affirmed that he was killed by the Algerians as soon as they learned of his intention to negotiate with Morocco and put an end to the conflict.
Upon his election as leader of the Polisario, Mohamed Abdelaziz led a guerrilla war against Moroccan forces until a U.N.-brokered cease-fire agreement took effect in 1991.
For most of its existence, the Polisario has been supported militarily, financially, and diplomatically by Algeria, which has provided the Polisario with territory, arms, and money.
Although Algeria is the Polisario’s longest standing and strongest supporter, the group also had close ties with Libya and Cuba. Libya, under Gaddafi, provided significant, albeit inconsistent support for the Polisario in the early years, arming and training fighters starting in 1973.
Credible news reports citing NATO sources likewise reported that several hundred Polisario fighters supported the Gaddafi regime during the Libyan civil war that ousted the regime.
Cuba continues to provide education and training for Polisario cadres, and Abdelaziz maintained close relations with the Cuban leadership and their allies in Latin America.
The Polisario operated as a one-party dictatorship under the rule of Mohamed Abdelaziz, who reigned as sole leader for more than 37 years.
Independent political parties, associations, and civil society groups are forbidden in the camps, and Sahrawis under Polisario Front control there are denied the most basic rights.
“Morocco took note of the passing of Mohamed Abdelaziz. As in any other death, it is regrettable mainly for family and relatives. However, it is not an event from a political point of view and does not impact the Moroccan Sahara issue,” a Moroccan official source told to press.
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