A region of north-western Africa, on the Atlantic coast between Morocco and Mauritania; population 405,200 (est. 2009); capital, Laayoune.
The region was formerly an overseas Spanish province, called Spanish Sahara. After the Spanish withdrew in 1976 it was renamed and annexed by Morocco and Mauritania. Mauritania withdrew in 1979 and Morocco extended its control over the entire region. A liberation movement, the Polisario Front, which had launched a guerrilla war against the Spanish in 1973, continued its struggle against Morocco in an attempt to establish an independent Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic; a ceasefire came into effect in 1991