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IMMIGRATION

Immigrant death toll from assault on Ceuta beach border could rise to 14

Government defends Civil Guard response to “aggressive” bid to enter Spain

The death toll from Thursday’s tragic attempt by a large group of migrants who tried to reach the Spanish exclave of Ceuta could rise to 14, Civil Guard sources in the Spanish exclave said on Friday after the Moroccan security forces reportedly recovered more bodies to add to the nine confirmed fatalities.

Authorities continue to comb the waters off Tarajal beach where dozens of migrants tried to swim from Morocco in a desperate attempt to reach Spanish territory.

The victims either drowned or died after heavy waves slammed them against the six-meter high wall that extends some distance out to the Mediterranean and acts as a barrier that divides Ceuta and Morocco.

It is unclear what caused the large group of migrants, most of them sub-Saharans, to dive into the sea while others tried to rush the security perimeter at Tarajal crossing. Some migrants accused the Civil Guard of firing their weapons at them, which caused the panic that resulted in the tragedy.

On Thursday, authorities pulled nine bodies from the waters, including that of a woman from the sub-Sahara.

The incident occurred after Civil Guard security cameras that guard the 8.2 kilometer perimeter captured images of a large group of migrants descending from a field near the Tangier highway and closing in on the Moroccan security post at Bab Septa.

Moroccan security forces alerted the Civil Guard that they were approaching. At around 7.45am the group reached the walkway border crossing at Biutz.

The Spanish government’s delegate in Ceuta, Francisco Antonio González, said that the migrants were “aggressive” and began throwing rocks and other objects at authorities.

Civil Guard officials said that they used their anti-riot gear “to dissuade” the migrants from rushing the border, which was closed off for 30 minutes.

As they reached the highway, about 200 tried to swim around the seawall as Moroccan authorities began controlling the situation. Civil Guard sources said that the migrants stampeded, “some stepping on others on the beach,” as they tried to jump into the sea.