At least 18 migrants died and another 76 were injured during an assault on the Spanish north African exclave of Melilla.
The deaths occurred when 2,000 sub-Saharan Africans stormed the Melilla border fence, breaking through an access gate to the border post. Other reports put the death toll as high as nearly 50.
About 133 migrants succeeded in entering Melilla, heading directly to a migrant reception centre. The authorities said that 140 Moroccan security force members were injured, five of them seriously. Spanish authorities in Melilla reported that 106 people were injured, including 49 agents of the Spanish Civil Guard.
The violent assault was the first since relations between Spain and Morocco thawed in March after a year-long dispute over the disputed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1976.
Morocco withdrew its ambassador after Spain gave medical treatment to the leader of the Polisario Front, the movement fighting for an independent Western Sahara, which is backed by Algeria.
Thousands of migrants poured into Ceuta, Spain’s second exclave, which was viewed as an act of retaliation by Morocco.
Relations improved after Spain backed Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara, a move which has angered Algeria.
A Spanish government spokesman in Melilla said the assault happened “despite the extensive arrangements deployed by the Moroccan security forces in co-ordination with the Spanish state security forces”.
The Spanish Association of the Civil Guard said it was “a new extremely violent assault where those trying to pass to Europe came equipped with a radial saw to cut one of the access gates to Chinatown and with axes. A new assault in which the few civil guards protecting the perimeter could do little except put their own safety at risk”.