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While Dakhla is generally quiet and peaceful, deep tensions underlie this apparent tranquillity, and occasionally they surface. The Saharawi neighbourhood of Oum Tounsi hit the news in February 2011 when it came under attack by Moroccan settlers during the now-abolished annual Dakhla festival. One factor behind the attacks was the resentment of settlers at the subsidies given to returnees from the Polisario camps in Algeria if they accept Moroccan citizenship, but the continued opposition of Saharawis to the Moroccan occupation remains the most serious issue. Further clashes between settlers and Saharawis erupted after a football match in September 2011, leaving eight dead. The Moroccan news agency Morocco World News, calling Oum Tounsi “a stronghold of smugglers”, blamed “ex-convicts” for the trouble, adding that unnamed foreigners had taken advantage of the violence to carry out “activities of subversion”. For all that, Dakhla is generally peaceful, but the periodic appearance of SADR flags in Saharawi neighbourhoods invariably leads to raids by Moroccan forces, and the tension between settlers and Saharawis does not look like going away any time soon.

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