A Moroccan nationalist group said that several of its members occupied the uninhabited Spanish islet of Perejil just off the Moroccan coast, but authorities in Madrid and Rabat said they could not verify that claim and the Spanish Civil Guard said that it had not spotted any intruders on the tiny island.
The Liberation Committee of Ceuta and Melilla and nearby islands said Sunday that five of its activists swam to Perejil, located some 200 meters (yards) off Morocco's northern coast, and raised two Moroccan flags, an intrusion the Spanish Defense Ministry has not confirmed.
The committee's vice president, Said Chramti, told Efe of the alleged occupation of Perejil but a Spanish Defense spokesperson said that the ministry "cannot confirm or deny that information."
Chramti said that the activists swam to the Spanish territory, arriving at mid-afternoon with enough provisions to remain on the islet for 15 days.
Perejil, which covers just 15 hectares (about 37 acres) and is located off the south shore of the Strait of Gibraltar about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the Spanish enclave city of Ceuta on the Moroccan coast, has been controlled by Spain since 1668 but in 2002 a group of Moroccan gendarmes invaded it provoking one of the worst diplomatic conflicts ever between Rabat and Madrid.
The government of Spanish then-Premier Jose Maria Aznar six days later launched a military action that retook the island.
The alleged incident on Sunday comes after on Aug. 29 a group of four Moroccan nationalists sent by the same committee tried to "occupy" Peña de Velez de la Gomera, a tiny Spanish-controlled peninsula on the Moroccan coast, but that attempt failed when they were ousted by members of the Spanish military stationed there.
Chramti said that what had occurred on Peñon de Velez de la Gomera was "innocent fun," adding that in two weeks the committee would organize a march at different places around Morocco to "ask Spain to abandon what belongs to us," a reference, presumably, to the assorted Spanish islands and urban enclaves along the North African nation's coastline.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Civil Guard's Maritime Service reported that its personnel made a reconnaissance by sea of Perejil - and also disembarked there - and "did not see anyone" on the uninhabited islet, Interior Ministry officials told Efe.
And the Government Delegation of Ceuta on Sunday denied that there had been any occupation of Perejil by Moroccan activists.
Moroccan authorities also said that they could not confirm the supposed "invasion," according to the Ceuta Government Delegation's communique.
On Sept. 4, Morocco and Spain found themselves involved in another delicate diplomatic situation when a group of Sub-Saharan migrants reached the Spanish islet of Isla de Tierra located in the Alhucemas archipelago, also just off Morocco's Mediterranean coast. EFE