The Spanish-Moroccan War
By Jose Santos
DAY 3: JULY 19TH 2002
Combat keeps raging on around Ceuta. The numerical superiority of the attackers has pushed the Spanish into the city, forcing them to abandon their defensive positions at the outskirts. Fresh and experienced Moroccan units formerly deployed at the Western Sahara are starting to arrive, despite the mayhem the continued Spanish naval bombardment is inflicting upon the road and communications systems in Northern Morocco. However, the Spanish have received ammunition supplies from their European friends, while preparations for a full invasion of Northern Morocco are on their way. While every diplomatic attempt to stop the war seems to have failed miserably, certain events in Southern Algeria and the Western Sahara are about to open a new front ….
3AM: Tanks and equipment start to be loaded into the Galicia assault ship at Rota.
All over ports in the Cadiz province and around the Gibraltar Strait, civilian freighters confiscated or rented by the Spanish military are also being loaded with supplies and men.
4AM: At the Berm, the defensive wall that separates the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara from the Polisario-controlled Free Sahara, most of the elite units have been redeployed in the North. The remaining units fail to see unusual movements in the polisario side of the Berm.
4.30AM: In Ceuta, despite the stubborn Spanish resistance, the Moroccans have held onto the dams. Heaviest fighting is now around the Oil refinery in the north edge of the city. The port is now under range of the Moroccan artillery.
6AM: In Madrid, the Military Staff decides to lessen naval and air support for Ceuta, since as many missiles as possible must be saved for the massive bombardment that will precede a landing. The Ceuta commander is informed that he and his men will have to resist for at least more 24 hours before they can be relieved. Supplies, especially of AT weapons, and more Legion soldiers, many of them evacuated from Melilla are on their way.
7AM: A 2nd attack renders the airbase at El Aaiun useless. Meanwhile, plans are laid out for a final attack that wipes out the remaining Moroccan airforce.
8AM: Sahrawi students and activists start demonstrating at El Aaiun. The demonstration soon escalates into riot.
8.30AM: Spanish Officials warn the US Navy command escorting civilian ships through the straits that the Straits will be closed again at midnight. This is soon filtered to international media: everybody knows what is coming next.
9AM: after resupplying, the Principe de Asturias leaves Rota heading south.
In Madrid, first opinion polls reveal a massive support for the war, although the first critical voices appear, and not only from pacifist or radical leftist groups.
In London, The Guardian publishes a very critical article on the Spanish position, noting the Spanish hypocrisy regarding Ceuta and Gibraltar, and the fact Spain attacked its neighbour out of a stupid border incident.
10AM: The last Spanish ship to enter the port of besieged Ceuta delivers ammunition stocks, much needed Anti Tank weapons and fresh, experienced Legion troops. The Spanish start a steady withdrawal towards the city center.
4 homemade bombs explode in Madrid buses, killing 45 people and injuring 143. This is the worst terrorist attack ever in Spanish soil.
11AM: the enormous maritime traffic jam in the Straits starts to clear. Convoys protected by US Navy ships cross the Straits at a good pace, while their crewmen are able to witness the heavy fighting over the Moroccan coast.
In Tindouf and all over the Free Sahara, the Polisario forces, in an uneasy ceasefire since 1991, are mobilizing while they try to hide their preparations from both Moroccan forces still standing in the Berm and the MINURSO soldiers [MINURSO is a peacekeeping UN force formed by around 200 russian, ghanese, Malaysian and Uruguayan blue helmets deployed around the Berm in 1991 to guarantee the ceasefire]
In the Western Sahara rioting is now extended to the cities of Smara, Boukhdour and Dakhla. The police seems unable to stop them.
12PM: demonstrations held at most Spanish cities to mourn the victims of the terrorist attack. Many immigrants assist too to show their repulse to the attack. There are several incidents, but they don’t degenerate into serious rioting.
1PM: In Rota, preparations are well on their way for an invasion.
In America, right wing media such as Fox News, Free Republic and others critizice President Bush for his "indecisiveness" while praising the "Conquistadores of the 21st century". The Democrat Party will also profit to this.
2PM: In Ceuta, the Moroccans have finally managed to take the refinery and are entering the city. The defenders, though, are making them pay dearly in vicious street fighting. Unfortunately for the defenders, the navy and the airforce can give them little support now.
3PM: Many units are transferred from Melilla to the Ceuta front. The Moroccans know they need a last desperate push to win the war.
4PM: In Madrid, Operations Blue and Black are given green light.
5PM: soldiers and equipment start boarding the landing ships.
In Madrid, the national police is already at the tracks of the terrorist commando.
In the Western Sahara, crates loaded with rifles, ammunition, AT missiles and even Stinger missiles are being opened and its content distributed to polisario members…
In Ceuta, the Moroccans have arrived to the city stadium, while the Spaniards continue their withdrawal.
6PM: In the largest air attack that far south to the moment, all 12 Harriers embarked at the Principe de Asturias attack the main Moroccan naval base in Casablanca. This is the first time this city is attacked. The Moroccan fleet has been anchored here since the beginning of the war since it was clear that any naval effort would be worthless against the much bigger and powerful Spanish fleet.
6.30PM: Taken by surprise and with little AA support, the Moroccan fleet was a sitting duck. Most ships are sunken or badly damaged.
7PM: The Moroccan airforce makes a last effort for supporting the onslaught on Ceuta, but the attackers have to withdraw after losing several planes to naval fire and Spanish F-18.
7.30PM: the situation in Western Sahara cities has become worse. Moroccan officials start to realize that this is not just usual rioting, but that the insurgents are well coordinated and organized.
8PM: the invasion fleet leaves Rota.
8.30PM: The Moroccan attack resumes with new, fresh units being thrown into Ceuta. However, what the Moroccans expected to be a swift attack towards the city centre is becoming an incredibly bloody mess. Anyway, with the most experienced and best armed units leading the assault, the Moroccans are able to make gains and penetrate deeper into the city.
They are heading to a trap that the Spanish command has been carefully setting up for the last two days.
10PM: The Spanish naval command announces that the straits will be closed to navigation at Midnight and that every civilian ship intending to cross it must head to the nearest available port.
At midnight, the invasion fleet, escorted by the most powerful available ships in the Spanish arsenal is arriving to their positions carefully laid out in Plan Blue.
Several hundreds of miles south, the polisario soldiers are deploying near the Berm, ready to open a new front in the war…
Map of Western Sahara as of July 19th
Morón de la Frontera airforce Base, July 19th 8.30PM
Byron Cepeda hadn’t signed up for this. When he saw the announcements in Ecuador the last year, he thought it would be an easy way to escape his life in Guayaquil and emigrate legally to Spain, where his brother and two cousins already were. Serving La Madre Patria would be way cooler than harvesting tomatoes at the large plantations in Andalusia and Murcia like his brother. After all, what could go wrong now? The most dangerous destination that he could be sent was as a peacekeeper in Kosovo. That was when he signed up, in May 2001. He managed to get past the tough training as paratrooper in the Almogavares Airborne division. He lived at the brigade headquarters. He got himself a Spanish girlfriend. He went to Kosovo, got himself wounded in a showdown with Albanian militiamen, and came back taking his job more seriously and with a nice Sergeant sleeve.
And now the moors have started a war. Right at Spain’s backdoor. And Byron Cepeda finds himself going to a real war. Great. Looks like at the end, escorting kosovar children to school was not the most dangerous thing that could happen to a Spanish soldier.
Sergeant Cepeda enters the meeting room, where the Brigade commander, General Sierra,is about to brief him and his counterparts on the Brigade’s duties.
Byron and his comrades for sure know one thing: being dropped onto Northern Morocco is not one of those duties. Half of the Brigade is already loading onto the planes, ready to be dropped right before the main landings happen. For some reason, the other half has been kept apart. All kinds of crazy rumours have already spread, but now, at least, they will have some official word.
General Sierra speaks:
-You may be wondering why on earth you are not being readied onto the planes, ready to land right on Mohammed’s ass and kick him very hard. Well, actually, you are. Officially, at least. If anybody in the rest of the world asks, the Roger de Lauria regiment has been dropped in the rear of the Moroccan army. It’s not like they’re going to count how many of us are there.
The bullshit alarms are ringing at Byron’s head. What the heck is this about? What kind of perverse joke have the big shots in Madrid prepared for us?
-While the rest of the world looks at the great land battle around Ceuta, we, along with several other units already on their way, will perform a very risky mission. If we fail, we lost the war. Or at least screwed it up big time. If we succeed—well, I think that the government will then run out of decorations.
A short pause. Everybody is now paying careful attention.
-What we are going to do is codenamed as Operation Black. Cool name, isn’t it? It is a part of a greater operative codenamed Plan Indigo that everyboy in the Ministry of Defense is crazy about. The success of Indigo, gentlemen, depends on you. You will have to open the way for our land-based forces and you will be alone facing a very pissed off enemy if something goes wrong. And now for the details…
Insignia of the BRIPAC airborne brigade: