María Traspaderne I Oued el Marsa (Morocco), (EFE).- Algeciras can be seen from the impressive Mediterranean beach of Oued el Marsa. In this small Moroccan coastal town near Ceuta, Yasin Kanja grew up, the young man arrested for murdering a sacristan who has shocked Spain, but also the neighbors who saw him grow up.
To reach Oued el Marsa you have to travel nine kilometers of a winding, bumpy road between the Moroccan Rif mountains. The town is divided into small nuclei of houses, the first further into the mountains and the last on the beach, where a few tourist buildings abound and a few fishermen work.
Some 300 inhabitants live there, a mixture of native shepherds and fishermen in modest homes and Moroccans who have their weekend homes there, some simple, those of those who decided at a given moment to go to live in the city, and others of several floors and marble of the wealthiest.
Surprise and fear to speak
This especially cold and windy Thursday, the news of what Yasin Kanja did is gradually reaching homes with surprise as a general feeling.
“Have you seen what Yasin did?” a customer at his grocery store tells Samir. “Last night I was in ‘shock’, I saw that there had been an attack in Algeciras and it turns out that someone from this town had done it,” he continues.
In addition to the surprise, in Oued el Marsa (Río del Puerto, in Arabic) people are afraid to speak, nobody wants their name to be mentioned so as not to be linked to an attack that has Spain in suspense. That is why all the names in this chronicle are fictitious.
The neighbors explain that Yasin Kanja was a normal child, who lived in that first nucleus of the mountain and studied at school, until in 2019, when he was 21 years old, he decided to emigrate.
Ali, the imam of the mosque a hundred meters from Kanja’s house, told EFE that he went to pray at his temple, but that he was not radicalized, that he and his family were normal Muslims.
A normal person with bad company
Kanja, say several neighbors consulted, has three brothers and one of them, the youngest, also emigrated to Spain. His mother lives in Tangier and rarely goes to the family home in Oued el Marsa, a white building that is half-abandoned today.
Near him, a family of three women and a man spend these days of school holidays in their home in the village. They hear the news from journalists. “Mustafa’s son has done that!” Khadija is surprised.
“This hurts us a lot,” says Samira, who puts herself in the mother’s shoes: “I don’t even want to imagine how she will feel.” “If something has happened to him, it has been in Spain,” adds Fátima, who remembers seeing Kanja as a child, running through the steep streets of the town.
At the wheel of his car, Mohamed, in his 30s, explains that he met Kanja as a child and also in Algeciras, where he emigrated until he returned to Morocco in 2019.
“That child has mixed with bad people there,” he says through the window. In Oued al Mansa, he says, he was a “normal” person and he went to Spain, he adds, on a jet ski.
Between Ceuta and Tangier
The town of Kanja is between Ceuta -just 6 kilometers away- and Tangier, in an area of Morocco where hashish trafficking networks operate, which occurs throughout the Moroccan north, and people, who offer boat trips to the across the Strait of Gibraltar in exchange for thousands of euros.
But now, says Samir, drug trafficking is down because, in his words, there is a “total closure” of the maritime border with more police checks. Nor is it easy, he affirms, “for the boats to leave here.” “We are suffering,” he says.
Drug trafficking fed part of the town’s economy and another part of the smuggling of goods with Ceuta, an “informal trade” that since the pandemic has been restricted and impoverished the inhabitants of the region, now forced to find other ways to survive.
That is why many end up leaving the town for the surrounding cities, or decide to emigrate, like Kanja. But what nobody expects is that someone they saw grow up is the protagonist, says Fátima, “things that are only seen in the news, in the movies and in the series.” EFE