Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Saturday appointed a new second-in-command of the armed forces, a release from the royal palace said, amid tensions with neighbour Algeria over Western Sahara.
Under the North African country’s constitution, the king himself commands the armed forces.
His new number two is Inspector General Mohammed Berid who replaces General Belkhir El Farouk, the announcement carried by the official MAP news agency said.
No reason for the change was given, but at the handover, Farouk, 75, appeared in a wheelchair. His successor is around seven years younger and was in charge of the zone that includes disputed Western Sahara.
According to the website Global Firepower, Morocco has about 310,000 regular soldiers and 150,000 reservists.
Saturday’s change comes during months of heightened tensions with Algeria after the collapse of a decades-old ceasefire in Western Sahara and Morocco’s normalisation of ties with Israel in late 2020.
The Algiers-backed Polisario Front seeks independence for the Western Sahara which Rabat says is Moroccan territory.
Antagonism between the two Maghreb states is also feeding a regional arms race.
The United States has just approved the sale of 18 HIMARS precision rocket systems to Morocco, while the Algerian armed forces rely mainly on equipment from Russia.