Five people were killed in anti-government protests over the weekend in Morocco, according to the county’s interior ministry.
The bodies were found burned in a bank that was set ablaze in the city of Al Hoceima, as thousands of Moroccans rallied for constitutional reforms and a clampdown on corruption across several cities of in the North African desert kingdom.
The official Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP) news agency stated that, citing witnesses, the dead bodies were of rioters who had tried to loot the bank while others set fire to the building.
Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui also said that another 128 people, including 115 members of the security forces, were wounded in the violence.
The minister added that 120 people were arrested in connection with the protests, although minors who were picked up were returned to their families.
He estimated that rioters damaged (or set fire to) 33 public buildings, 24 banks, 50 businesses or private buildings and 66 vehicles.
However, he added that the majority of protesters were peaceful.
In response to the marches, the nation’s Communication Minister Khalid Naciri promised the government will speed up reforms.
Moroccan democracy is maturing,” he told reporters.
“At a time when demonstrators in other Arab countries are met with violence, in Morocco they face institutional and political serenity. These reform demands have been part of our national agenda since King Mohammed VI came to power (in 1999). Now we need to move into higher gear.”
Protesters, many of them unemployed young people who communicate via Facebook and are clearly inspired by the succesful revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, have vowed the demonstrations will continue.
The people have expressed their support for political reform. The mobilization will continue, a leading protester told the AFP.
Meanwhile, an Islamist deputy meanwhile resigned from Morocco's opposition Justice and Development party to protest its decision not to participate in the protests.
Sunday's march was highly civilized and peaceful and our party should not have called for a boycott, said Mustapha Ramid.