Moroccan protesters clashed Wednesday with security forces in a poor mining town where residents have been demanding government help to tackle poverty, officials and activists said.
The town of Jerada in the remote northeast has seen protests since two miners were killed in an accident in December, but demonstrations calling for state aid and alternative jobs had remained peaceful until now.
On Wednesday, protesters set five police cars on fire and clashed with police, a local official said. An unspecified number of policemen were wounded and brought to a hospital in Oujda, the main city in the northeast, a statement said.
Nine people had been detained, officials said.
Sit-in turns violent
An activist in Jerada said residents had staged a sit-in against a statement by the interior ministry Tuesday that had warned it was ready to act decisively unless the protests stopped.
Security forces fired teargas, according to a video posted on social media purportedly showing the clashes.
Some 500 security personnel had surrounded the protest, which had led to the violence, the activist said by phone, asking not to be named.
Residents say the town has been neglected since the mines closed some 20 years ago, part of growing public dissatisfaction in some poor areas at a time when the government is implementing currency reforms and cutting subsidies to drive economic growth.
Dissent across the north
The Jerada protests have found common cause with dissent that has rumbled since 2016 in the Rif, also in the north and making economic and political demands.
They are a far cry from the mass protests that rocked the North African country in 2011 when uprisings ousted rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, but pose a challenge to a constitutional monarchy in which the king has far-reaching powers.
Stability in Morocco is important for Western governments because it is the only country in North Africa where jihadist groups have failed to gain a foothold. Rabat is also a key intelligence-sharing partner on Islamist militancy.