Riot in Morocco's "phosphates city" over jobs

Wed Mar 16, 2011 5:47am GMT
 

RABAT (Reuters) - Jobless protesters rioted at the offices of state-run phosphate monopoly OCP in the central city of Khouribga, injuring about 10 members of Morocco's security forces, the official MAP news agency said on Tuesday.

Around 100 protesters invaded OCP's administrative offices and damaged the building's facade with stones. They also destroyed 11 vehicles and company documentation, MAP said.

Khouribga is home to the country's biggest phosphate mine.

MAP said several protests have taken place in front of OCP's offices since Feb 21 to demand jobs. Local officials have promised them employment, MAP added.

The riots were led "by some individuals who have no link whatsoever with those (job) demands", MAP said.

A statement from OCP "strongly deplored" the acts.

"Offices, computers and work tools have been ransacked ... The real motives of the troublemakers cannot be justified".

It said registered applicants would be given training courses within few weeks. OCP hired 6,000 people over the past five years, a third of its workforce, and plans to offer 2,000 jobs over the next two years, it added.

Unemployment in Morocco officially stands at around 9 percent, rising to 18 percent among graduates. Independent analysts and opposition parties say the figures are higher.

Morocco is the world's top phosphate reserves holder and a key supplier of fertilisers and phosphoric acid.

Analysts say the country, run by a monarch who advocates reform and an approach to dissent that is tolerant by regional standards, is among the countries least likely to be hit by the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world.

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