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Spain says 500 African migrants make violent attempt to storm border fence at Melilla enclave

MADRID - Hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants armed with sticks and stones stormed the six-meter (20-foot) high double barbed wire border fence on Monday in a bid to enter Spain's northwest African enclave of Melilla from Morocco, with about 100 of them making it across, Spanish and Moroccan officials said.

The spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry's office in Melilla said Moroccan guards trying to halt the migrants were attacked during the melee and had to take shelter. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of ministry regulations.

Moroccan forces arrested 96 of the migrants, 14 of whom were hospitalized in the nearby city of Nador, according to a Moroccan Interior Ministry statement. It said 13 security force members were injured by the stone-throwing migrants.

Spain said 500 migrants were involved in the assault while Morocco put the figure at 300.

Melilla is surrounded by Morocco and the Mediterranean Sea. Migrants hoping to get to Europe camp on the Moroccan side, and several thousand try each year to enter the city and Spain's other coastal enclave of Ceuta.

In recent months Moroccan authorities have been trying to clear forest areas around the enclaves, moving the migrants to cities far from the border.

Monday's attempt came a week after 200 migrants tried to scale the Melilla fences, with some 50 managing to get across.

Those that make it are normally placed in temporary accommodation while authorities try to repatriate them.

On Feb. 6, at least 15 migrants drowned in Moroccan waters while trying to enter Ceuta by sea after several hundred tried to storm the enclave's border by land.

There are an estimated 25,000 sub-Saharan Africans living illegally in Morocco, most hoping to make their way to Europe.


Associated Press writer Paul Schemm contributed to this report from Rabat, Morocco.

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