UPDATE 2-Morocco says 7 killed in Western Sahara soccer clash
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RABAT, Sept 27 (Reuters) - The death toll from clashes after a soccer match in Western Sahara on Sunday has reached 7, Morocco's MAP official news agency reported on Tuesday, making it the worst bout of violence in the desert territory since November.
A resident in Dakhla, 1,840 km (1,150 miles) south of Rabat and the site of the match, told Reuters clashes between one group of residents of Sahrawi origin and another of Moroccan origin continued until early on Tuesday.
Another resident said the clashes spread through the town on Monday despite the police use of teargas, and that troops had been sent to two neighbourhoods to restore order.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975, and since then it has been the subject of a dispute between Morocco's government and the Polisario Front, an independence movement backed by neighbouring Algeria.
"We have been living in fear since Sunday ... The population, whether it is Sahrawi or Moroccan, is caught in the middle. We can't go out," the first resident, who asked to be identified as Hassan, said by telephone from Dakhla.
The second, Khaled Aniba, said several four-wheel-drive vehicles carrying military personnel had deployed to pacify two Dakhla neighbourhoods, home to the two groups.
"The anti-riot police fired teargas canisters yesterday to end the clashes between the two sides, but this did not prevent some of them from reaching other parts of the city and attacking anyone who looked like their enemy," Aniba said.
"People have had their cars and shops burned. I've seen six charred cars," he added.
Moroccan officials said the clashes broke out when supporters leaving the stadium started throwing stones at the opposing team's supporters.
They said people with criminal records then joined in, attacking passers-by with sticks and knives.
It was the deadliest bout of violence in the territory since November, when Moroccan authorities said 11 members of their security forces were among 13 people who died in violence in the territory's main city, Laayoune.
That violence erupted after Moroccan security forces dismantled a protest camp where thousands of residents had gathered to demand better living conditions.
Moroccan officials initially said the violence after Sunday's match had killed one person, but raised the death toll to two on Monday.
The match was between Western Sahara side Mouloudia Dakhla and Chabab Mohammadia, a team from a city near Casablanca in Morocco. An official source in Western Sahara told Reuters two public order officials were among the seven killed.
MAP said three of the victims were killed when they were run over by "ex-convicts aboard a four-wheel-drive vehicle".
Moroccan Communication Minister Khalid Naciri likened the violence to "hooliganism that can happen anywhere around the world" but did not dismiss possible political motivations.
"Some people may be seeking to take advantage of these riots to spread instability ... We don't expect enemies of unity to sit idle," Naciri told Reuters by telephone. He declined to comment on the residents' reports that troops had been deployed in Dakhla.
Western Sahara is a sparsely populated tract of desert about the size of Britain. Morocco says the territory should come under its sovereignty, while the exiled Polisario Front says it is an independent state.
The Polisario Front waged a guerrilla war against Moroccan forces until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991. Since then, several rounds of talks have failed to produce a deal on Western Sahara's status.
(Reporting By Souhail Karam; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Tim Pearce)
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