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5 Die, 127 Hurt as Worst Riots in 7 Years Sweep Morocco City

From Times Wire Services

Thousands of rioters burned down a hotel and attacked vehicles, shops and banks in the ancient city of Fez in Morocco’s worst violence in seven years.

At least five people were killed and 127 were injured in the rioting, which flared during a one-day general strike Friday and continued Saturday, the official news agency MAP reported.

More than 20,000 demonstrators, some armed with chains, iron bars and knives, rampaged through the narrow alleys of the old walled city of Fez--one of North Africa’s most popular tourist centers--and into the modern part of the town, burning and looting.

On Saturday, protesters set fire to a police station and several vehicles in Fez, but order was restored by nightfall, authorities said.

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Trade union sources said there were also disturbances in the northern towns of Tangier, Kenitra and Sidi Slimane.

It was the worst street violence in Morocco since January, 1984, when more than 100 people died in bread riots.

MAP said several hotels in Fez, 90 miles east of Rabat, were set ablaze, but there were no casualties among staff or guests. Rescue teams plucked some from the flames.

One hotel, the Merinides, a 200-room landmark on a hill overlooking the old city, was burned down.

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Friday’s strike was called by Morocco’s two trade union federations. The unions are demanding an increase in wages from a minimum of $130 to $260 a month.

The government denied reports from a trade union spokesman that 20 to 30 people were killed when security forces and troops in armored vehicles fired on demonstrators Friday.

MAP said troops used tear gas and fired warning shots to break up the riots, which erupted when students attacked buses driven by soldiers replacing striking drivers.

Police arrested 110 looters, including a group carrying a safe containing $75,000.

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