Sun, Nov 16, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Remote-controlled donkeys killed after police foil ruse

THE GUARDIAN , ALGIERS

The remote-controlled donkeys were, until it all ended in tragedy, a cunning and successful way of fooling border police patrolling the barren, hilly frontier between Algeria and Morocco.

Loaded with illegal goods and with tape recorders strapped to their backs exhorting them to "walk on" in Arabic, the faithful beasts trudged daily backwards and forwards between Bab el-Assa in Algeria and Ahfir, Morocco.

That was until Algerian customs police finally got wise to the ruse and slaughtered 200 of the animals.

Algeria's Al Khabar newspaper has reported the slaying, saying that villagers in Babel-Assa are up in arms over what they consider to be the police's illegal actions, according to a local BBC correspondent.

The remote-controlled donkeys would set out on tracks from Bab el-Assa laden with goods that reached high prices in Morocco. Once they got close to Ahfir, the donkeys would be met by Moroccan smugglers who turned off the tape machines and unloaded the goods.

They would then load them with Moroccan goods, point them in the opposite direction and turn the tape machines back on.

Al Khabar did not say whether the smugglers always made sure that the tape machines had fresh batteries, or what happened if they ran out halfway along the smugglers' route.

The hard-to-patrol borders between countries in north Africa have inspired other ingenious smuggling ruses over the years.

Tunisian and Libyan smugglers are famous for loading up trucks or tractors, tying the steering wheel into position and a stone to the accelerator and letting them travel across the desert border on their own until they run out of fuel.

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