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Unrest in La Linea after two drown at sea

Photo courtesy of Diario Area.

Scenes of unrest unfolded in La Linea late on Monday after two Spanish men drowned about two nautical miles off La Atunara beach on the east side.

The men drowned after the vessel they were in sustained engine problems and sank, Spanish police sources told the Efe news agency.

They claimed the vessel was carrying fuel for a larger speedboat of the sort used by drug traffickers in the Strait of Gibraltar.

The two had been spotted from shore by police officers, who alerted other agencies.

A Guardia Civil vessel picked up the two men, aged 19 and 41, and brought them ashore in La Atunara but despite efforts to provide first aid, both died at the scene.

Tensions flared as the crowds sought to lay blame for the deaths on Spanish law enforcement agencies.

“They blame police instead of their bosses, the traffickers who are becoming millionaires while they risk their lives for peanuts,” one police source told Efe.

Skips were set alight and roads were blocked at different locations in the area of La Atunara.

Insults and stones were hurled at officers of the Policia Nacional as they left the port area and the mood was tense and angry.

“There were masked men burning skips and it was really intimidating,” said one Gibraltarian eyewitness who was driving through La Atunara when the trouble flared up.

“We drove out of there as soon as we could.”

Footage of people protesting on the seafront road was shared among social media users both in Gibraltar and La Linea.

There were reports too that some vehicles had been targeted by some in the crowd.

Another Gibraltarian eyewitness described how a routine evening commute turned into a desperate bid to flee from the trouble.

“As I moved towards the former La Marina restaurant I could see a slight build-up of traffic including several Gibraltar-registered vehicles, but that’s not unusual as occasionally the police have controls by the area,” he said.

“However as I approached the church I could see smoke coming from the direction of the houses opposite.”

As he turned the bend by the church, he was “confronted by crowds” and the “road to the left which goes toward the beach and Gibraltar was blocked by two big refuse containers which had been set alight”.

“The persons around were very agitated,” the eyewitness said.

“Among the crowd near the bins were numerous persons armed with stones and sticks shouting in an angry manner. I could not believe the situation I was now facing.”

Eventually he managed to manoeuvre through the cars, mounting the pavement to get away from the crowds, and sped on toward the Mercadona supermarket where the road was clearer ahead.

The cars heading towards the beach carried out quick three-point turns in order to get away.

“My immediate thought as I headed back to Gibraltar via the alternative route was; how incredible that one moment you can be on a leisurely ride or drive with not a care in the world and the next moment you turn a bend and you are in the middle of a riot and of a situation of danger,” the eyewitness added.

The unrest died down toward late evening but last night riot police were deployed to the area amid concern it could reignite.

Yesterday evening, the Royal Gibraltar Police used social media to advise people to stay away from the area.

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