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Melilla migrant deaths fuel new Spanish coalition fissure

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is feeling the heat from within his own coalition government over the deaths of migrants attempting to cross from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Melilla.

Sánchez, who is about to welcome fellow NATO leaders to a summit in Madrid, has been accused of failing to condemn the violent response of Moroccan police to the attempted crossing of about 2,000 migrants on Friday, which left 23 to 37 people killed, depending on estimates.

Spain’s main opposition Popular Party (PP) has been rallying parties to call for an investigation into what happened during the crossing, and to ask Sánchez to rectify his statements, judged as too complacent toward the Moroccan police, according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

The plea has been backed by Sánchez’s coalition junior partner, the leftist Unidas Podemos (UP), as well as other parties. Shortly after the incident, one of the UP ministers, Yolanda Díaz, tweeted: “It is time to clarify what happened … No one should die like this.”

The move is set to fracture the Spanish government even further, as the two parties have been fighting repeatedly in recent months over everything from the monarchy to rappers.

Footage showing dozens of people crushed against fences with Moroccan security forces standing over them sparked an outcry in Morocco and Spain. Human rights groups have also called for further investigation into the events.

“I will never cease to express my support for the civil guard and the police,” Sánchez said on Saturday. “I would also like to thank the Moroccan gendarmerie for their work. Morocco also fights and suffers from this violence.” The Socialist prime minister put the blame on the “mafias who traffic in human beings.”

The remarks sparked the ire of the opposition, with the PP on Monday registering a petition calling on the prime minister and his Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska to give explanations to parliament.

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