Tue 23 Jan 2007 12:46:34 GMT RABAT, Jan 23 (Reuters)
A young girl and a town mayor in Western Sahara died in two landmine explosions, four days after a member of parliament was killed in a similar blast, officials said on Tuesday. The rare succession of mine blasts prompted Moroccan newspapers to speculate they could be part of a plot by the Polisario Front to end a 16-year U.N.-sponsored ceasefire.
But government officials in the territory and in Rabat dismissed such speculation, saying desert winds and rain unearthed some of the thousands of mines planted close to populated areas during decades of conflict.
Morocco, claiming centuries-old rights over a territory rich in phosphates, fisheries and possibly offshore oil, annexed Western Sahara when Spain withdrew in 1975.
That triggered a low-level guerrilla war with Polisario before a U.N. backed ceasefire agreement in 1991, which has been respected by both sides.
On Monday 8-year-old Fatima Bent Ibrahim died when a landmine exploded while she played outside her house in al Haouz area outside Laayoune, main Western Sahara’s city.
Hours earlier Mohamed Joumani, mayor of Gueltet Zemmour town, died in a similar blast, government officials said.
Morocco’s upper house parliament member Mohamed Laroussi was killed four days ago when a landmine explosion hit the car he was travelling in on Bir Inzarane area, about 160 km (100 miles) northeast of Dakhla coastal town, they said.