Ifni War

The Ifni War, sometimes called the Forgotten War in Spain (la Guerra Olvidada), was a series of armed incursions into Spanish West Africa by Moroccan insurgents that began in October 1957 and culminated with the abortive siege of Sidi Ifni.

The war, which may be seen as part of the general movement of decolonization that swept Africa throughout the later half of the 20th century, was conducted primarily by elements of the Moroccan Army of Liberation which, no longer tied down in conflicts with the French, committed a significant portion of its resources and manpower to the capture of Spanish possessions.

Ifni War
Part of the decolonisation of Africa

Ifni before the conflict and after
Date23 October 1957 – 30 June 1958
(8 months and 1 week)
Cabo Juby ceded to Morocco by Spain
France France
Morocco Moroccan Army of Liberation
Commanders and leaders
Francoist Spain Francisco Franco
Francoist Spain José María López Valencia
France René Coty
Morocco Ben Hammu

14,000 men
150 aircraft

Francoist Spain 9,000
France 5,000
Casualties and losses
198 dead
574 wounded
80 missing[4]
1,000 dead[5]
Morocco Protectorate
A map showing Spanish involvement in Northern Africa


The city of Sidi Ifni was incorporated into the Spanish Empire in 1860. The following decades of Franco-Spanish collaboration resulted in the establishment and extension of Spanish protectorates south of the city; Spanish influence obtained international recognition at the Berlin Conference of 1884. In 1946, the region's various coastal and inland colonies were consolidated as Spanish West Africa.

When Morocco regained independence from France and Spain in 1956, the country expressed their keen interest in all of Spain’s remaining colonial possessions in Morocco, claiming that it was historically and geographically all part of Moroccan territory. Sultan Mohammed V encouraged efforts to re-capture the land and personally funded anti-Spanish conspirators, Moroccan insurgents and indigenous Sahrawi rebels to claim Ifni back for Morocco.[6]


Violent demonstrations against Spanish rule erupted in Ifni on April 10, 1957, followed by civil strife and widespread killings of those loyal to Spain. In response, Generalissimo Franco dispatched two battalions of the Spanish Legion, Spain's elite fighting force, to El Aaiún in Saguia el-Hamra in June.

Spanish military mobilisation resulted in the Royal Moroccan Army converging near Ifni. On October 23, 1957, two villages on the outskirts of Sidi Ifni, Goulimine and Bou Izarguen, were occupied by 1,500 Moroccan soldiers (Moujahidine).

The encirclement of Ifni was the beginning of the Ifni War. Two more Legion battalions reached Spanish Sahara before the opening of hostilities.

The storming of Ifni

On 21 November, Spanish intelligence in Ifni reported that attacks were imminent by Moroccans operating out of Tafraout. Two days later, Spanish lines of communication were cut, and a force of 2,000 Moroccans stormed Spanish garrisons and armories in and around Ifni.

Although the Moroccan drive into Sidi Ifni was easily repulsed, two nearby Spanish outposts were abandoned in the face of enemy attacks and many others remained under heavy siege.


At Tiluin, 60 Tiradores de Ifni (locally recruited indigenous infantry with Spanish officers and specialist personnel) struggled to hold off a force of several hundred Moroccans. On November 25, a relief attempt was authorised. Five CASA 2.111 bombers (Spanish-built variants of the Heinkel He 111) bombed enemy positions, while an equal number of CASA 352 transports (Spanish-built versions of the Junkers Ju 52/3m) dropped a force of 75 paratroopers into the outpost.

On 3 December, soldiers of the Spanish Legion's 6th battalion (VI Bandera) arrived, breaking the siege and retaking the airfield. All military and civilian personnel were then evacuated overland to Sidi Ifni.


The relief of Telata was less successful. Leaving Sidi Ifni on 24 November aboard several old trucks, a platoon of the Spanish Legion paratroop battalion under Captain Ortiz de Zárate made slow progress through difficult terrain. This problem was compounded by frequent Moroccan ambushes, which by the next day had left several men wounded and forced the Spaniards off the road. On 26 November, food ran out. The Spanish, low on ammunition, resumed their advance, only to dig in again in the face of repeated enemy attacks.

Rations were dropped by air, but Spanish casualties continued to mount. One of the dead was Captain Ortiz de Zárate. On 2 December, a column of infantry, among them the erstwhile defenders of Telata, broke through the Moroccan lines and drove the enemy off. The survivors of the paratroop detachment reached Sidi Ifni once more on 5 December. The company had suffered two dead and fourteen wounded.

Siege of Sidi Ifni

Initial Moroccan attacks had been generally successful. In the space of a fortnight, the Moroccans and their tribal allies had asserted control over most of Ifni, isolating inland Spanish units from the capital. Simultaneous attacks had been launched throughout Spanish Sahara, overrunning garrisons and ambushing convoys and patrols.

Consequently, Moroccan units, resupplied and greatly reinforced, tried to surround and besiege Sidi Ifni, hoping to incite a popular uprising. However, the Moroccans underestimated the strength of the Spanish defences. Supplied from the sea by the Spanish Navy and protected by kilometres of trenches and forward outposts, Sidi Ifni, boasting 7,500 defenders by 9 December, proved impregnable. The siege, lasting into June 1958, was uneventful and relatively bloodless, as Spain and Morocco both concentrated resources on Saharan theatres.

Battle of Edchera

In January 1958, Morocco redoubled its commitment to the Spanish campaign, reorganising all army units in Spanish territory as the "Saharan Liberation Army".

On 12 January, a division of the Saharan Liberation Army attacked the Spanish garrison at El Aaiún. Beaten back and forced into retreat by the Spaniards, the army turned its efforts to the southeast. Another opportunity presented itself the next day at Edchera, where two companies of the 13th Legionnaire battalion were conducting a reconnaissance mission. Slipping unseen into the large dunes near the Spanish positions, the Moroccans opened fire.

Ambushed, the Legionnaires fought to maintain cohesion, driving off attacks with mortar and small arms fire. Notable fighting was seen by the 1st platoon, which stubbornly denied ground to the Moroccans until heavy losses forced it to withdraw. Bloody attacks continued until nightfall, and were fiercely resisted by the Spanish, who inflicted heavy casualties. By nightfall, the Moroccans were too scattered and depleted of men to continue their assault, and retreated into the darkness.

Clearance of Spanish Sahara

In February 1958, a Franco-Spanish combined force launched an offensive that broke up the Moroccan Liberation Army. Between them, France and Spain deployed a joint air fleet of 150 planes. The Spanish were 9,000 strong and the French 5,000.

First to fall were the Moroccan mountain strongholds at Tan-Tan. Bombed from above and rocketed from below, the Liberation Army suffered 150 dead and abandoned its positions.

On February 10, the 4th, 9th, and 13th Spanish Legion battalions, organised into a motorised group, drove the Moroccans from Edchera and advanced to Tafurdat and Smara.

The Spanish army at El Aaiún, in conjunction with French forces from Fort Gouraud, struck the Moroccans on February 21, destroying Saharan Liberation Army concentrations between Bir Nazaran and Ausert.


On April 2, 1958, the governments of Spain and Morocco signed the Treaty of Angra de Cintra which was named after the large bay in the area. Morocco obtained the region of Tarfaya (Cape Juby), between the river Draa and the parallel 27° 40′, excluding the colonies of Sidi Ifni and Spanish Sahara.

Spain retained possession of Ifni until 1969, when, while under some international pressure (resolution 2072 of the United Nations from 1965), it returned the territory to Morocco. Spain kept control of Spanish Sahara until the 1975 Green March prompted it to sign the Madrid Accords with Morocco and Mauritania; it withdrew from the territory in 1976 and Western Sahara was invaded by the Royal Moroccan Army and the Mauritanian Army.

UN General Assembly
Resolution 2072 (XX)
Date16 December 1965
Meeting no.1398
CodeA/RES/2072(XX) (Document)
SubjectIfni and Spanish Sahara


  • Santamaría, Ramiro. Ifni-Sahara, la guerra ignorada ("Ifni-Sahara, the Ignored War") Dyrsa, Madrid, 1984. The history of the Ifni war told by a specialised journalist in the Western Sahara.
  • Casas de la Vega, Rafael. La última guerra de Africa ("The last war of Africa") Servicio de Publicaciones del Estado Mayor del Ejército, Madrid, 1985. Military analysis of the war by a Spanish general.
  • Mariñas Romero, Gerardo. "La Legión española en la guerra de Ifni-Sahara" ("The Spanish Legion in the Ifni-Sahara War"). Defensa, nº 117 (1988). Article about the intervention of the Spanish Legion in the Ifni war.
  • Belles Gasulla, José. Cabo Jubi-58. Memorias de un teniente de infantería en la campaña Ifni-Sahara ("Cape Jubi-58: Memoirs of an infantry lieutenant in the Ifni-Sahara campaign") Servicio de Publicaciones del Estado Mayor del Ejército, Madrid, 1990. Testimony of a Spanish officer.
  • Diego Aguirre, José Ramón. "Ifni, la última guerra colonial española" ("Ifni, the last Spanish colonial war"). Historia 16, nº 167 (1990). Analysis of the Ifni war with unpublished documents.
  • Diego Aguirre, José Ramón. La última guerra colonial de España: Ifni-Sahara, 1957–1958 ("The last colonial war of Spain: Ifni-Sahara, 1957–1958"). Algazara, Málaga, 1993. ISBN 978-8487999178 History of the Ifni war.
  • Simón Contreras, Miguel. "Ifni y Sahara, hoy" ("Ifni and Sahara, today"). Ejército, nº 633 (1992). An officer of the Spanish Army revisits the battleground .
  • Tamburini, Francesco. "Ifni-Sahara, 1957–1958: una guerra coloniale dimenticata" ("Ifni-Sahara, 1957–1958: a forgotten colonial war"). Eserciti e Storia, no. 42, a. VII, July–August 2007.

See also


  1. ^ Warfare Since the Second World War, Torsten Schwinghammer [1]
  2. ^ Warfare and Armed Conflicts, Micheal Clodfelter, page 552 [2]
  3. ^ Warfare and Armed Conflicts, Micheal Clodfelter, page 552 [3]
  4. ^ Warfare Since the Second World War, Torsten Schwinghammer [4]
  5. ^ Warfare Since the Second World War, Torsten Schwinghammer [5]
  6. ^ "The Forgotten Spanish War of Ifni". theARXXIDUC. 2007-11-23. Retrieved 2017-02-13.

External links

Cape Juby

Cape Juby (Arabic: رأس جوبي‎, trans. Raʾs Juby, Spanish: Cabo Juby) is a cape on the coast of southern Morocco, near the border with Western Sahara, directly east of the Canary Islands.

Its surrounding area, called Cape Juby Strip or Tarfaya Strip, while making up presently the far South of Morocco, is in a way a semi-desertic buffer zone between Morocco proper and the Western Sahara, and was under Spanish rule as the southern part of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco in the first half of the 20th century.

Erma EMP

This article is about the Erma machine pistol gun, not to be confused with the Bergmann MP-35 or the Austrian MP34.The German machine pistol EMP (Erma Maschinenpistole) also known as MPE (Maschinenpistole Erma) was produced by the Erma factory, and was based on designs acquired from Heinrich Vollmer. The gun was produced from 1931 to 1938 in roughly 10,000 exemplars (in three main variants) and exported to Spain, Mexico, China and Yugoslavia, but also used domestically by the SS. It was produced under license in Spain by the arsenal of A Coruña under the designation M41/44.

First Battle of Amgala

The First Battle of Amgala was fought between 27–29 January 1976 around the oasis of Amgala, Western Sahara, about 260 kilometres (160 mi) west of the border with Algeria.

Units from the Algerian Army were attacked by units from the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces on the night of 27 January.

The Algerians withdrew after fighting for 36 hours.Spanish Sahara was one of the last colonial possessions in Africa.Morocco had been fighting Spain for the liberation of this territory since 1957 after the Ifni war while Polisario Front, an organization of the local Sahrawi people, had been fighting for independence since its foundation on 1973.

The United Nations had long called for a plebiscite on the future status of the colony, but in November 1975 Spain signed an agreement under which it was split between Morocco and Mauritania with no prior referendum.

By January 1976 Morocco controlled most towns in their assigned sector.

Thousands of Sahrawi nomads were fleeing east to Algeria.Algeria claimed their troops were providing food and medical supplies to refugees at Amgala,

while Morocco said the Algerian troops were heavily armed and were aiding Polisario.

The Moroccan attack went in during the night of 27 January, and on 29 January the Algerians withdrew.

The number of deaths on either side is disputed, but over 100 Algerians were taken prisoner.

The two countries seemed close to war, but after intense diplomacy and one other possible encounter at Amgala in February 1976 there were no further engagements between Algerian and Moroccan troops.

Green March

The Green March was a strategic mass demonstration in November 1975, coordinated by the Moroccan government, to force Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan province of Spanish Sahara to Morocco. The demonstration of some 350,000 Moroccans advanced several kilometres into the Western Sahara territory, escorted by nearly 20,000 Moroccan troops, and meeting very little response by the Sahrawi Polisario Front. Nevertheless, the events quickly escalated into a fully waged war between Morocco and the militias of the Polisario, the Western Sahara War, which would last for 16 years. Morocco later gained control over most of the former Spanish Sahara, which it continues to hold.


Ifni was a Spanish province on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, south of Agadir and across from the Canary Islands.

It had a total area of 1,502 km² (580 sq mi), and a population of 51,517 in 1964. The main industry was fishing.

List of Spanish colonial wars in Morocco

There have been several Spanish colonial wars in Morocco or Hispano-Moroccan wars:

Conquest of La Mamora (1681)

Hispano-Moroccan War (1859–1860)

First Melillan campaign (1893–1894)

Second Melillan campaign (1909–1910)

Third Melillan campaign (1911–1912)

Rif War (1921–1926)

Ifni War (1957–1958)

List of colonial governors of Spanish Sahara

This is a list of European colonial administrators responsible for the territory of Spanish Sahara, an area equivalent to modern-day Western Sahara.

List of conflicts in Africa

This is a list of conflicts in Africa arranged by country, both on the continent and associated islands, including wars between African nations, civil wars, and wars involving non-African nations that took place within Africa. It encompasses colonial wars, wars of independence, secessionist and separatist conflicts, major episodes of national violence (riots, massacres, etc.), and global conflicts in which Africa was a theatre of war.


The Masmuda is a Berber tribal confederacy of Morocco and one of the largest in the Maghreb, along with the Zanata and the Sanhaja. They were composed of several sub-tribes: Berghouatas, Ghomaras (Ghomarids), Hintatas (Hafsids), Tin Malel, Hergha, Genfisa, Seksiwa, Gedmiwa, Hezerdja, Urika, Guerouanes, Bni M'tir, Hezmira, Regraga, Haha les Banou Maghus, Gilawa and others. Today, the Masmuda confederacy largely corresponds to the speakers of the Shilha (Tachelhit) Berber variety, whereas other clans, such as Regraga and Doukkala, have adopted Arabic.

Military history of Morocco

The military history of Morocco covers a vast time period and complex events. It interacts with multiple military events in a vast area containing North Africa and the Iberian peninsula.

Moroccan Army of Liberation

The Army of Liberation (Moroccan Arabic: جيش التحرير‎, translit. Jish Etteḥrir, Berber languages: Aserdas Uslelli) was an organisation of various loosely united militias fighting for the independence of Morocco from the French-Spanish occupation.

It was founded sometime in 1955 as an attempt to organise the various factions of rural Moroccan armed resistance that swept the country as a result of the assassination of Farhat Hached and the exile of king Mohamed ben Youssef. Abdelkrim El Khattabi played an important role in the instigation of the army, through commanders such as Abbas Messaadi and Sellam Ameziane.

Moroccan settlers

Following the 1975 Green March, on the course of Western Sahara conflict, the Moroccan state has sponsored settlement schemes enticing thousands of Moroccans to move into the Moroccan-occupied part of Western Sahara (80% of the Western Sahara territory). By 2015, it was estimated that Moroccan settlers made up at least two thirds of the 500,000 inhabitants in the Western Sahara region.

Postage stamps and postal history of Cape Juby

Cape Juby is a cape on the coast of southern Morocco, near its border with Western Sahara, directly east of the Canary Islands.

In 1912, Spain negotiated with France (who controlled the affairs of Morocco at the time) for concessions on the southern edge of Morocco. The final Spanish protectorate included a southern strip centred on Cape Juby. On July 29, 1916, Francisco Bens officially occupied Cape Juby. The location was used as a staging post for airmail flights.

When Morocco became independent in 1956, it asked for the cession of Moroccan areas controlled by Spain. After some resistance and some fighting in 1957 during the Ifni War, Cape Juby was ceded to Morocco in 1958. The region is now also known as the Tarfaya Strip.

Postage stamps and postal history of Morocco

The postal history of Morocco is complex due to the country's political development in the 20th century. Mails were sent via post offices operated by the Sherifan post created by the Sultan, and by the European powers. After the partition of Morocco into French and Spanish protectorate and the international zone of Tangier in 1912, France and Spain established postal services in their respective zones.

Spanish Sahara

Spanish Sahara (Spanish: Sahara Español; Arabic: الصحراء الإسبانية‎ As-Sahrā'a Al-Isbānīyah), officially the Overseas Province of the Spanish Sahara, was the name used for the modern territory of Western Sahara when it was occupied and ruled by Spain between 1884 and 1975. It had been one of the most recent acquisitions of the Spanish Empire as well as one of its last remaining holdings, which had once extended from the Americas to the Philippines and East Asia.

Spain gave up its Saharan possession following Moroccan demands and international pressure, mainly from United Nations resolutions regarding decolonisation. There was internal pressure from the native Sahrawi population, through the Polisario Front, and the claims of Morocco and Mauritania. After gaining independence in 1956, Morocco laid claim to the territory as part of its historic pre-colonial territory. Mauritania claimed the territory for a number of years based on its history, but dropped all claims in 1979.

In 1975, Morocco occupied much of the territory, now known as Western Sahara, but the Polisario Front, promoting the sovereignty of an independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), fought a guerrilla war for 16 years against Morocco. In 1991, the UN negotiated a ceasefire and has tried to arrange negotiations and a referendum to let the population vote on its future. Morocco controls the entire Atlantic coast and most of the landmass, population and natural resources of Western Sahara.

Spanish protectorate in Morocco

The Spanish protectorate in Morocco was established on 27 November 1912 by a treaty between France and Spain that converted the Spanish sphere of influence in Morocco into a formal protectorate.

The Spanish protectorate consisted of a northern strip on the Mediterranean and the Strait of Gibraltar, and a southern part of the protectorate around Cape Juby, bordering the Spanish Sahara. The northern zone became part of independent Morocco on 7 April 1956, shortly after France had ceded its protectorate (French Morocco). Spain finally ceded its southern zone through the Treaty of Angra de Cintra on 1 April 1958, after the short Ifni War. The city of Tangiers was excluded from the Spanish protectorate and received a special internationally controlled status.

Since France already held a protectorate over the entire country and controlled Morocco's foreign affairs (since 30 March 1912), it also held the power to delegate a zone to Spanish protection. The surface area of the zone was about 20,948 km2 (8,088 sq mi), which represents 4.69% of modern-day Morocco.


Tarfaya (Arabic: طرفاية‎ - Ṭarfāya; Berber languages: ⵟⴰⵔⴼⴰⵢⴰ) is a coastal Moroccan town, located at the level of Cape Juby, in southwestern Morocco, on the Atlantic coast. It is located about 890 km southwest of the capital Rabat, and around 100 km from Laayoune and Lanzarote, in the far east of the Canary Islands. During the colonial era, Tarfaya was a Spanish colony known as Villa Bens. It was unified with Morocco in 1958 after the Ifni War, called the Forgotten War in Spain, which started one year after the independence of other regions of Morocco.

Tarfaya is the capital and main town in the Tarfaya Province, and counts a population of 8,027 inhabitants according to the 2014 census. Although founded in the twentieth century, the city has a big historical symbolic in the Moroccan history, dating back to the era of the Green March in November 1975.

The region of Tarfaya has been linked with relations with foreign powers, following several incursions conducted at its coasts (Spanish, Portuguese, British and French). This blending gave the city a special cultural dimension in its history. The famous French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) lived two years (1927-1928) in Tarfaya before writing his masterpiece The Little Prince that was later translated to more than 300 languages and dialects. He served as station manager here during his career as an airmail pilot. In 2004, the Antoine de Saint-Exupery Museum was opened in Tarfaya.

Tarfaya is home to a number of economic projects, including the largest wind farm in Africa, called Tarfaya Wind Farm, and the Casa Del Mar, named as the historical Victoria Harbor, that was founded by the Scottish trader and traveler Donald McKenzie in 1882. It is the meeting area of Atlantic coast with stretching sand dunes.

Sebkha Tah, the lowest altitude point in Morocco (55 meters below sea level) is located in Tarfaya province. Tarfaya is also the closest city to the Khenifiss National Park, added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list, an ecological site home to hundreds of different kinds of migratory birds each year. It is estimated that more than 20,000 birds from 211 different species breed, nest and feed regularly in the park.

Treaty of Angra de Cintra

The Treaty of Angra de Cintra, signed by Spain and Morocco on 1 April 1958, ended the Spanish protectorate in Morocco and helped end the Ifni War.

The Spanish foreign minister, Fernando María Castiella y Maíz, and his Moroccan counterpart, Ahmed Balafrej, as well as their respective secretaries, met on the Bay of Cintra in the Spanish colony of Río de Oro between 31 March and 2 April in utmost secrecy to negotiate an end to the clashes between Spain and Moroccan-supported rebels that had begun in October 1957. The resulting treaty was signed on 1 April. By its terms, Spain would return to Moroccan control the southern zone of its protectorate, which it had retained even after handing over the northern zone in 1956. This zone, called Cabo Juby or the Tarfaya Strip, lay between the river Draa and the parallel 27° 40′ north. The transfer was to take place on 10 April in the administrative capital of Villa Bens (Tarfaya). The Moroccan heir apparent, the future Hassan II, was present at the ceremony. The agreement did not give a timeline for the evacuation of Spanish troops from either the northern or southern zone of the old protectorate, but merely expressed both parties' commitment to total evacuation.On 15 April, Spain circulated a note verbale to the United Nations asserting that with the Treaty of Angra de Cintra it had completely fulfilled its declaration of 7 April 1956 terminating its protectorate.On 30 June 1958, the Moroccan Army of Liberation (which was not a part of the regular Moroccan army) declared a ceasefire, bringing to an end the Ifni War. The enclave of Sidi Ifni, which was surrounded by Moroccan territory, was not ceded at Angra de Cintra, since it was under Spanish sovereignty. It was, however, greatly reduced in size, since its outlying regions, occupied by the Ait Ba Amran tribe were abandoned (although this was not specified in the treaty). The city itself was only ceded to Morocco in 1969. Likewise, the agreement of Cintra did not touch upon any of Morocco's other territorial claims against Spain, either in the Sahara or the Mediterranean.

Spanish–Moroccan conflicts
Franco-Moroccan conflicts

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