Protesters and police clash in Morocco's Jerada
Protesters and police clashed on Wednesday in the former mining town of Jerada in northeastern Morocco in connection to an ongoing protest movement, authorities and activists said.
Videos posted on social media by activists showed a tense standoff as a new sit-in began in the city, economically devastated by the closure of its mines in the late 1990s.
A local source reported clashes between police and protesters, and activists on Facebook accused police of assaulting the demonstrators.
Authorities said a "confrontation" began after hooded youths threw stones at police.
Local media reported injuries after the clashes, but authorities have not yet released any figures.
Protestors also gathered in front of illegal coal mining shafts in a nearby village, where men descended into the "death shafts" to protest against the security approach adopted by authorities, reports said.
"Five people went down the illegal shafts. Four came out and the fifth refused civil protection assistance," authorities said.
Jerada police headquarters on Wednesday moved to ban any illegal demonstration in the province.
The accidental deaths in December of two brothers trapped in a mine shaft, followed by two other deaths under similar circumstances, gave rise to calls demanding economic alternatives for the former coal mining town.
Hundreds of illegal miners risk their lives in closed mine shafts to extract coal, the sale of which is legal thanks to operating permits issued by Moroccan authorities.
An economic plan proposed by the government succeeded in briefly calming social unrest, but protesters returned the street in late February to demand concrete solutions.
Tension rose last weekend after authorities arrested four activists. Videos posted on Facebook show a large police presence.
On Tuesday, the interior ministry promised "firm responses to aggressive and irresponsible behaviour".