POLISARIO FIGHTER WOUNDED IN DRONE-GUIDED ATTACK
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SPECIAL REPORT FROM THE SAHARAWI REFUGEE CAMPS IN TINDUF (ALGERIA)
(Report in https://www.publico.es/internacional/drones-marroquies-combatiente-saharaui-herido-guerras-marruecos-me-ataco-dron-gran-diferencia.html translated by D.Breatnach)
Mohamed Fadel states that he was seriously injured last April by a Moroccan drone, during the same action in which the head of the Saharawi National Guard was killed. Morocco is silent on the use of these unmanned devices that have become the obsession of the Polisario Front troops.
Mohamed Fadel, ‘Mundi’, in a tent in the Saharawi refugee camp of Bojador, in Tindouf, Algeria, on October 15.
Mohamed Fadel can say that he has firsthand experience of the changes between the two wars against Morocco in which he was wounded. The first was in 1985, when a shell fragment hit him in the arm. But he recovered and returned to the front in no time. The second time was the recent April one and “it was more serious,” he says, showing the marks on his body under his military jacket.
Burns to his face, hands and arms, two scars the size of a coin on his right side and an incision of more than a foot long across the middle of his belly. “They had to open me up to remove the three pieces of shrapnel that I had inside. It took me three months to fully recover,” he explains in perfect Spanish. “It was a drone attack. That is now the big difference,” insists this seasoned 64-year-old Saharawi fighter.
But Mundi, as everyone knows him in the refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, does not like to talk about two different wars. This, he says, the one that the Polisario Front declared on November 13 after 30 years of ceasefire, “is just a continuation of the previous one”, the one that began in 1975, after the military occupation of the former Spanish Sahara by part of Morocco. “The enemy is the same and the objective is the same: the referendum that has not been held and the independence of the Sahara. The only things that have changed are the means, the technology,” explains the Saharawi fighter, in the shade of a tent in the Bojador refugee camp.
“They are neither seen nor heard, but they are there and attack at any moment”
Moroccan drones are the worst nightmare in this new stage of hostilities, according to all the Sahrawi fighters interviewed by Público during the Polisario-organized trip to the camps last week.
“They are neither seen nor heard, but they are there and attack at any moment,” insists Mundi, although at the moment they have not shown any documentary evidence certifying the presence of armed or surveillance drones. The two parties accuse each other of using them, although both deny it, according to the latest report on this conflict by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.
An almost paranoid obsession
After each Sahrawi attack against the defensive Wall built by Morocco, all eyes are on the sky. Drones feel close almost always, even if they are not there, like an almost paranoid obsession. One of the main military directives of the Polisario is to stay away from cars when they halt, because they are their main target. When they believe that a drone is following behind, the old Sahrawi vehicles separate, stop and the unit that was on board runs away.
Morocco has embraced the purchase of Turkish-made armed drones, according to ‘Reuters’
These unmanned devices make up much of modern warfare and have been instrumental in recent conflicts. One of the most recent, for example, was the capture by Azerbaijani troops of Nagorno Karabakh last year. They defeated the Armenians thanks to Turkish-made drones, deploying practically no soldiers to the front, recalls the arms trade expert Tica Font, from the Delàs Center for Peace Studies.
Font emphasizes that Turkey, Azerbaijan’s main ally in the conflict, is one of the few countries that manufacture and sell drones capable of loading and firing missiles, along with the United States, Rabat’s main military supplier, followed by France and Spain.
Indeed, as Reuters recently revealed, Turkey has expanded the sale of armed drones to Morocco. Specifically, several sources cited by the British agency speak of purchase requests from Rabat of the Bayraktar TB2 model, of which they would have already received a first batch ordered in May.
As we moved away, a drone followed us
Although that was two months after the attack Mundi is talking about. According to him, the bombing that wounded him was on April 11. “In broad daylight, at four in the afternoon. We were near the Wall, we had just carried out an operation against a Moroccan base and they responded. First with artillery and, later, when we were moving away, a drone followed us,” he described.
His vehicle stopped and his three companions followed the rules of dispersing, but Mundi had no time to get to safety. “The missile landed very close to the car and I was level with the front wheel,” he recalls. He claims that that afternoon he was able to see one of the aircraft in the air, although he did not see it fire. He believes there had to be more than one, “because eight or nine missiles were launched, and that cannot be carried by a single drone,” he maintained.
In that Moroccan bombardment, Mundi explained, the esteemed head of the Saharawi National Guard, Adah el Bendir, 61, a noted military strategist expert in engineering and combat, died. The Polisario announced the important loss. Morocco, for its part, opted for its most effective tactic since the resumption of hostilities: silence and indifference. Only the Alawite news portal Le Desk reported that an Israeli-made Harfang model drone had participated in the attack on El Bendir. Morocco did not even want to claim a goal in a war that does not exist for Rabat.
However, the Delàs Center expert warned that most of the marketed drones are for surveillance and monitoring, and that they do not need to carry weapons to attack a target. “Many have all kinds of built-in radar and sensors that send information to a central computer. With that data, you can open fire with precision from any platform, be it a ship, an aircraft or a ground unit. Tens of kilometers from the target” says Font.
That’s Le Desk‘s version of the attack in which Mundi was wounded and El Bendir killed. According to this Moroccan portal, the drone laser marked the target and an F-16 fighter launched the projectiles.
“They do not scare us, because with fear nothing is done in war. But there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of anxiety and tension,” he affirms after 46 years as a soldier in the Saharawi people’s army.
Mundi is confident that sooner or later they will find the formula to detect and demolish the Moroccan aircraft. “We learned to fight them when they raised the wall, we learned to shoot down their planes and we learned to capture their armour,” he says. “We are still starting. At the moment we are using a tactic of attrition. We attacked bases and retreated. In the 80s we also started that way when they built the wall. Until 1984 we did not carry out large-scale attacks. War has its times,” he says. This one has already lasted more than 40 years.
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