Moroccan king intervenes personally in Hoceima riots

Moroccan king intervenes personally in Hoceima riots
Morocco's King Mohammed has personally ordered troops to step down in order to cool tensions in the restless Rif region.
2 min read
06 July, 2017
The protests in Hoceima

Morocco's King Mohammed ordered the withdrawal of security forces from the centre of a town on Thursday that has experienced a number of anti-government protests in recent months.

King Mohammed VI ordered the troops to step down from the town of al-Hoceima, the epicentre of popular unrest in the Rif region, to "restore security and maintain stability".

Anti-government protests have grown in the past eight months and reached fever pitch in June when riot police and protesters clashed daily.

The Rif region's main port, al-Hoceima, has been rocked by protests since October, when a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck.

Demonstrators from the al-Hirak al-Shaabi - or "Popular Movement" - have campaigned for months for greater investment in the Rif region, an end to corruption, and more jobs.

Prime Minister Saad Eddin Othmani ordered a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to discuss the security situation and the withdrawal of troops in line with the king's orders.

The king earlier criticised ministers over delays to a local $670 million development programme which aims to bring jobs to the region.

The programme has fallen behind schedule and the king delayed cabinet member's holiday plans until the plan came up to date.

One of the protester's main demands is the lifting of what they termed the "militarization of the countryside".

They have called on Rabat to withdraw security forces from the town centre.

Another key demand is the release of political activists and protest leaders. Security forces arrested more than 150 people in one day during the peak of the violence - including protest leader Nasser Zefzafi of the Popular Movement.

Unconfirmed reports have emerged that Zefzafi may have been beaten by prison staff in the Okasha jail, but his father said on Wednesday that his spirits remained high.