The scene after Moroccan security forces attacked the tent camp on the outskirts of Laayoune
Thousands of Spanish protesters have taken to the streets of Madrid to condemn a deadly assault by Moroccan forces on a refugee camp in Western Sahara.
The streets were filled with Sahrawi flags as demonstrators chanted “free Sahara” and denounced the Spanish government's response as “too soft,” the Press TV correspondent in Madrid reported on Saturday.
Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez has voiced concern about the incident, describing it as “very serious.”
The camp, which is home to 12,000 Sahrawi refugees, was set up about a month ago on the outskirts of the regional capital Laayoune, apparently because of deteriorating living conditions.
Reports say Moroccan forces attacked the camp on Monday, using live ammunition, tear gas, and water cannon.
The Moroccan government says 12 people were killed in the incident, 10 of whom were members of the security forces.
However, the Polisario Front -- a Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement working for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco -- says the death toll was much higher.
On Friday, the Polisario Front said that dozens were killed, 4,500 wounded, and more than 2,000 people were arrested during the assault.
A Sahrawi-Spanish citizen is believed to be among the dead.
Morocco annexed the territory in 1975 after Spain and Mauretania withdrew. Since then, raising the Sahrawi flag in the occupied part of Western Sahara has been illegal.
Rabat has offered to grant the Western Sahara autonomy but the Polisario Front wants a referendum on full independence.
In the 1990s, the United Nations promised a referendum for Western Sahara so that the Sahrawi people could choose between independence, autonomy, and integration, but Moroccan authorities have so far failed to deliver on that promise.