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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 October 2006, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Morocco disbands riot police unit
By Richard Hamilton
BBC News, Rabat

A Moroccan police officer
The move is intended to improve the efficiency of the security forces
The Moroccan security forces have disbanded their riot police unit - the GUS - as part of a major reorganisation within the police and army.

The unit was criticised for the way it dealt with protests and demonstrations.

The 5,000 members of the GUS would be re-integrated into other parts of the security services, a statement said.

The riot police were introduced in 2004 after the threat of terrorism was thought to increase following bombings in Casablanca in 2003 which killed 45.

The statement said the move would improve the efficiency of the security forces and allow them to protect the well-being of the country's citizens.

Brutal approach

That is the closest the government has come to an admission that all has not been well with the riot police for some time.

The reality is that they had become deeply unpopular for their heavy-handed and at times brutal approach to riot control.

The force was even accused of causing several deaths as it broke up demonstrations in Layounne in Western Sahara.

When the GUS took part in parades in May this year - marking the 50th anniversary of the creation of the country's armed forces - spectators booed them.

In September General Hamidou Laanigri, who had been responsible for creating the GUS, was replaced as head of the security service in a wide-ranging shake-up.

The police will now deal with demonstrations in the same way that they did before the GUS came into existence - with ordinary police officers - and hopefully in a way that is neither insensitive nor antagonistic.

'2,000 held' over Morocco bombs
12 May 04 |  Africa
In pictures: Casablanca blasts
17 May 03 |  Photo Gallery

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