The secretary general of the Polisario Front movement, which seeks the independence of North Africa’s disputed Western Sahara, has been taken from Algeria to a hospital in Spain after becoming ill with Covid-19, Spanish state broadcaster RTVE reported.

The Spanish government allowed 71-year-old Brahim Ghali to enter the country on humanitarian grounds, RTVE reported, citing official information from the territory disputed under international law.

Other reports have said that Ghali has cancer. There was no official confirmation or reliable information about his health status.

Western Sahara, on North Africa’s Atlantic coast, was a Spanish colony until 1975, when Morocco took over. It claims the phosphate-rich, sparsely populated area as part of its territory.

The Polisario Front, which is backed by Algeria, demands an independence vote – a demand that Morocco has refused.

Tensions rose again after a Moroccan military operation in Western Sahara in November. According to media reports at the time, Ghali said there was no longer a commitment to abide by the 1991 ceasefire.

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