Organisers said they were surprised by the crackdown as similar protests had been held for weeks [Reuters]

Dozens of protesters have been injured in the Moroccan city of Casablanca as security forces broke up a rally of several hundred people demanding political reforms.

Riot police armed with truncheons broke up the protest on Sunday in an unusual show of violence - rallies have been held in Casablanca's main King Mohammed Square every week for the past month.

"This was a peaceful rally, we don't know what made the police attack a peaceful protest," Ghizlaine Benameur, an
opposition activist who took part in the rally, was reported by the Reuters news agency as saying.

"This has been their most violent intervention since the start of the protests last month," she said.

The AFP news agency reported a witness as saying they had seen police beating a pregnant women amid the clashes.

Many protesters sought refuge in the offices of the Unified Socialist Party (PSU) to escape the clashes.

"The police could not get into the headquarters, particularly because of the resistance of the demonstrators who were beaten up," Abderrahim Tafnout, a PSU leader, said.

"About 30 of the injured, 10 of whom were badly hurt, were taken to hospital," said Tafnout, who works as a journalist for state television. "Most of them had received blows to the head, while others had more minor wounds."

Police used loudhailers to call on the demonstrators, many of whom were supporters of the Justice and Charity Party (PJB), a movement which is banned but tolerated, to leave the PSU headquarters.

Most analysts say Morocco is among the countries in the region least likely to be hit by the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world.

King Mohammed, Morocco's monarch, announced on Wednesday he had appointed a committee to draft a reform of the constitution widening the prerogatives of elected officials, and ensuring officials are accountable and the judiciary independent.

Opposition members and activists from the PJB have said the proposal is unsatisfactory.

Source: Agencies