The leader of the Polisario Front in Western Sahara, Brahim Ghali, has been flown to Spain for treatment after catching coronavirus.
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic confirmed in a statement “the president is under treatment for Covid-19 and medical surveillance”.
The statement did not however indicate where the 73-year old was being treated and denied reports that he had cancer.
Mr Ghali was transferred to Spain for strictly humanitarian reasons in order to receive medical treatment, a source in the Spanish foreign Ministry told the AFP news agency.
A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara has been the subject of a dispute since 1975 between its indigenous people led by Polisario Front and Morocco, which claims it as part of its territory.
The Polisario Front proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in 1976, with a government in exile in Algeria.
Brahim Ghali was elected leader of the Polisario Front and president of the SADR in July 2016 following the death of long-term president Mohamed Abdelaziz Ezzedine.
A seasoned military leader, described both as a “hard-line supporter” and “historic figure”, he was one of Polisario’s founding members in 1973 and led the first raids against the occupying Spanish forces that sparked the armed struggle for Western Saharan independence.