Moroccan navy fires on migrant boat, wounding teenager

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — A 16-year-old boy was shot in the shoulder by a Moroccan Royal Navy unit that opened fire on a boat carrying at least 50 would-be migrants toward Europe, a military official said Wednesday.

The boy, lightly wounded, was taken to a hospital in the northern city of Tangiers, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and asked to remain anonymous.

All of the passengers, including the teenager, were Moroccan, he said.

On Sept. 25, members of the Royal Navy fired on a speedboat carrying migrants, killing a 20-year-old Moroccan woman and injuring three others.

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The boat was piloted by two men from Spain, increasingly the destination of migrants making the short, but dangerous trip across the Strait of Gibraltar as intensified policing blocks routes to Italy and Greece.

The latest shooting incident occurred on the Atlantic coast, near Larache, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Tangiers.

The military official said the navy unit opened fire late Tuesday on a “suspicious boat” that engaged in what he said were hostile collision maneuvers.

Morocco’s official MAP news agency reported, quoting a military source, said the boat ignored warning shots before making hostile maneuvers “significantly threatening the safety” of the navy team, “which was obliged to fire a shot to immobilize it.”

Meanwhile, the navy said it had saved up to 500 people on boats on Tuesday and Wednesday, the official MAP news agency reported. MAP said the navy brought 366 Europe-bound migrants from 15 inflatable boats to port. On Wednesday, 86 Moroccans from a boat that had been at sea Sunday were taken to Larache, the news agency said.

Amid concerns about migrant smuggling in the western Mediterranean region, Morocco’s Royal Navy has increasingly intervened to stop boats suspected of carrying people who plan to enter Spain illegally.

The central Mediterranean route that has been the main sea route to Europe from North Africa is being choked off. Italy has closed its ports to rescued migrants, while Libya’s coast guard chases after smugglers’ small boats and takes migrants back to Libya.

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This story has been corrected to show the number of people wounded in the Sept. 25 incident was three, not four.

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