Rif War (1909)

Rif War (1909)

The second Rif War was a conflict in 1909 in Morocco around Melilla. The fighting involved local Rifains and the Spanish Army.


After having lost the Spanish-American War in 1898, Spain sought compensation for its lost prestige by expanding its influence in Northern Africa. Spain had an agreement with Muley Mohamet, a local tribesman, to exploit mines around Melilla, against the wishes of Sultan Abd al-Aziz and other local tribes. On August 8, 1908, the mines were attacked by Rifains a first time without causing any casualties, but Muley Mohamet was apprehended and sent to Fez, where he died in prison. Now without support in hostile territory, General Marina, military commander of Melilla, asked Madrid for reinforcements to protect these exploitations, but none were sent. On July 9, 1909, a new attack occurred and six Spanish railway workers were killed by tribesmen.

Spanish defeat

As a result of these deaths, Prime Minister Antonio Maura Montaner increased the Spanish garrison at Melilla from 5,000 men to 22,000 in preparation for an offensive. All the Spanish forces involved were conscripts; at this stage, Spain had neither professional troops, nor indigenous troops under arms. The Spanish army was poorly trained and equipped and lacked basic maps.

The next day, the Spanish troops are shot at by Francs-tireurs and skirmishes occur near Melilla. General Marina decided to post six companies at Ait Aixa, under command of Colonel Álvarez Cabrera. They left Melilla at nightfall but got lost and, in the morning, found themselves in the Alfer Canyon, where they are decimated by gunfire from the heights. Colonel Cabrera and 26 men are killed, 230 are wounded.

On June 26, the Spanish suffered a second defeat at the Lobo Canyon, when Marina sent another force under General Pintos to protect Segunda Caseta. In this ambush, General Pintos and 153 men are killed and 600 are wounded. This was the second worst Spanish defeat in Morocco after the Battle of Annual.


After this disaster, all Spanish military operations were stopped, troop-levels were raised to 35,000 men and heavy artillery was brought over from Spain.

By the end of August, the Spanish launched a new attack, and thanks to overwhelming forces, by January 1910, they had subdued most of the eastern tribes. The Spanish continued to expand their Melilla enclave to encompass the area from Cape Tres Forcas to the southern inlets of Mar Chica. However, this was achieved at the cost of 2,517 casualties.


* [http://www.balagan.org.uk/war/iberia/1909/index.htm Balagan]
* [http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desastre_del_Barranco_del_Lobo Spanish Wikipedia]

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