Spain denies police role in 15 Moroccans' drowning

AP News
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Posted: Feb 21, 2014 11:34 AM
Spain denies police role in 15 Moroccans' drowning

MADRID (AP) — Spain's Interior Ministry on Friday posted videos online showing police firing rubber bullets as migrants swam into Spanish territory from Morocco, but denied this action contributed to the drowning of 15 migrants.

The police-produced videos show bullets striking the sea as migrants tried to swim around the fence separating Moroccan territory from Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta on Feb. 6. Earlier, hundreds had tried to breach border security barriers by land.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said police fired the projectiles in front of the migrants, not directly at them. He said all victims had drowned in Moroccan waters.

Spanish officials initially denied that rubber bullets had been fired into the sea, but in an appearance before Parliament on Feb. 13, Diaz acknowledged that they had, along with blank cartridges and smoke canisters.

He also said 23 migrants had arrived safely on Spanish soil, evidence he claimed that border police had not acted maliciously.

Ceuta is one of two Spanish territories surrounded by Morocco and the Mediterranean Sea. Annually, thousands of people hoping to reach a better standard of living in Europe camp out in Morocco and try to cross over onto Spanish soil.