A Moroccan navy boat this week opened fire on an invader smuggler speedboat attempting to leave that country to reach Spain, wounding four and killing one of the would-be invaders, the Moroccan Meidais24 news service has reported.
According to the report, a naval unit operating in the Mediterranean was forced to fire on the boat after its captain refused to respond to several warnings. The four people injured were taken to a provincial hospital, the statement said.
The boat was carrying dozens of invaders—all of them Moroccan nationals.
This was the second time in a few days that Morocco’s navy intervened to stop a boat suspected of carrying migrants across the Mediterranean.
In recent months, Morocco has been witnessing a significant hike in illegal migration attempts.
Morocco thwarted at least 54,000 attempts to smuggle illegal migrants into Europe in the first eight months of 2018, compared to 39,000 attempts a year earlier, the Moroccan government said.
The Medias24 report revealed that the speedboat was called to a halt by an experienced navy patrolman on a RPB 20 patrol boat. The commanding officer had twice been fired upon by smugglers in the past, and was himself armed with an M16 assault rifle.
The speedboat failed to come a halt or even acknowledge the patrol boat’s orders, and as a result, the commanding officer—seeing only the pilot and co-pilot—fired a number of shots at the hull of the vessel.
The 18 would-be invaders, who were all hiding below deck, were struck by the bullets, the report continued.
“The intercepted ship’s objective was to transport passengers to the Spanish coast. According to a security source, this expedition was organized by a network of smugglers,” the report said.
“Once in Spanish territory, the people call their relatives to ask for payment. The network therefore has links in both countries.”
Moroccan Ministry of the Interior Khalid Zerouali spokesman said that since the beginning of the year, more than 80 smuggling networks have been dismantled , including 23 in August alone.
Since the beginning of the year, however, Spain has become the primary gateway to Europe, with nearly 38,000 arrivals by sea and land, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Until now, the vast majority of invaders—either sub-Saharan Africans or Moroccans—landed by makeshift boats or small boats chartered by smugglers.
However, of late, the smugglers have started using powerful high-speed motorboats, known colloquially as “go-fasts,” previously used only for drug-trafficking.