Last updated: October 19, 2011

Clashes over jail conditions shake Moroccan prison

Clashes between security forces and prisoners from the radical Salafist branch of Islam on Tuesday rocked a jail in Sale, close to the Moroccan capital Rabat, officials said.

"The situation was brought under control at the end of the morning. One policeman was wounded and taken to hospital. His life is not in danger. About 34 Salafists surrendered at the end of the morning," a security official told AFP.

Security forces intervened on Monday afternoon to break up a rally by Salafist prisoners who sought to protest about their conditions of detention and clashes broke out. The fighting went on overnight, but authorities said Tuesday that the situation "seems to have calmed down".

"Tear gas grenades and rubber bullets were used this morning by police forces who confronted the detainees inside the prison and even on the roof," a witness said.

"There is a climate of total anarchy in this prison, which houses more than 200 Salafist detainees," according to Abderrahim Mouhtad, the head of the Annassir association, which defends Salafist prisoners' rights.

"Clearly the prison administration intends to take back control of the situation and adopt firmer tactics than before," Mouhtad told AFP.

"These detainees sequestered prison warders yesterday and today. They took on the security forces with stones and the clashes were unusually violent," said a senior official in the ministry of the interior.

According to a family member of one prisoner, "the prison authorities wanted to lay their hands on a detainee suspected of having recently broadcast a video on YouTube in which you see the Salafist prisoners protest, inside the prison, about their detention conditions."

Citing eyewitnesses, the MAP official news agency said on Monday that the security forces "intervened to establish order", and added that "eight members of the security forces and prison warders were slightly wounded during the course of this intervention".

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