Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi

Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi
Muhammad Ibn 'Abd El-Karim El-Khattabi
Nickname Abd el-Krim or Abdelkrim
Born 1880
Ajdir, Morocco
Died 1963 (aged 77–78)
Cairo, Egypt
Allegiance Morocco
Rank Guerrilla leader
Battles/wars Rif War
*Battle of Annual

Abd el-Krim (1882-3, Ajdir[1] –February 6, 1963, Cairo) (full name: Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi, Arabic: محمد بن عبد الكريم الخطابي‎, Berber name: Muḥend n Ɛabd Krim Lxeṭṭabi) was the leader of a large-scale armed Berber resistance movement in the Rif, a large Berber-speaking area in northern Morocco. Together with his brother Mhemmed, he led a broad coalition of major Rifian tribes against French and Spanish colonial occupation. His guerrilla tactics are known to have influenced Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, and Che Guevara.[2]


Early life

Abd el-Krim was born in Ajdir, Morocco, the son of 'Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi, a qadi (Islamic judge) of the Aith Yusuf clan of the Aith Uriaghel (or Waryaghar) tribe.[3] Abd el-Krim received a traditional education at a mosque school in Ajdir, followed by a period at a religious institute at Tetouan.[4] At the age of twenty, it appears he studied for two years in Fez at the Attarine and Seffarine medersas, in order to prepare to enter the famous Qaraouiyine university.[5] His brother, M'Hammad received a Spanish education, studying mine engineering in Malaga and Madrid.[6] Both spoke fluent Spanish. After his studies, in 1906, Abd el-Krim was sent to Melilla by his father. He worked there as a teacher and translator (until 1913), working for the OCTAI - the Spanish 'native affairs' office - and became a journalist for the Spanish newspaper Telegrama del Rif (1906–1915).

First World War

Abd el-Krim entered the Spanish governmental structure, and was appointed chief qadi (Muslim judge) for Melilla in 1914. During the war Abd el-Krim was punished by the Spanish government for anticolonial activities including an alleged conspiracy with the German consul Dr. Walter Zechlin (1879–1962). He was imprisoned in Chaouen from 1916 to 1917. At the end of the war, Abd el-Krim briefly resumed publishing in a Spanish-language newspaper, but soon, fearful of extradition to the French for punishment, he returned to his home at Ajdir in January 1919. He was alarmed by the appearance of Spanish agents in Ayt Weryaghel tribal territory and was determined to fight for his tribe's independence. The following year, Abd el-Krim, together with his father and brother, began a war of rebellion against the Spanish incursions.[7][8] His goal was now to unite the tribes of the Rif into an independent Republic of the Rif to undermine the entire French-Spanish colonial project in Morocco.

Guerrilla leadership

In 1921, as a byproduct of their efforts to destroy the power of a local brigand, Raisuli, Spanish troops approached the unoccupied areas of the Rif. Abd-el-Krim sent their General, Manuel Fernández Silvestre, a warning that if they crossed the Ameqqran river he would consider it an act of war. Silvestre is said to have laughed, and shortly afterwards set up a military post across the river to establish an outpost at the hills of Abarran moutains. In June 1921 a sizable Riffian force attacked this post killing 179 Spanish troops of the estimated 250. Soon afterwards, Abd el-Krim directed his forces to attack the Spanish lines at Anwal with great success. In three weeks of fierce battles, 8,000 Spanish troops were killed, and the Spanish army of 13,000 was forced to flee to the coast, defeated by an army of 3,000 Rifian fighters.[9] During the attack on Anwal, General Silvestre either committed suicide or was killed defending the post. This colossal victory established Abd el-Krim as a master and pioneer of guerrilla warfare,[10] and the leader of Northern Morocco.

The embarrassing defeat of the Spanish forces at Anwal created a political earthquake in Spain that subsequently led to General Miguel Primo de Rivera's coup d'état of September 13, 1923, the installation of a military dictatorship in Spain (1923–1930), and the eventual collapse of the Spanish Monarchy in April 1931.

By 1924, the Spanish had been forced to retreat to their two isolated enclaves along the Moroccan coast. France, which in any case laid claim to territory in the southern Rif, realized that allowing another North African colonial power to be defeated by the native Berbers would set a great threat to their controlled territories, and after Abd el-Krim invaded French-occupied Morocco in April 1925, entered the fray. In 1925, a massive French force under Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain and a Spanish army, with a combined total of 250,000+ soldiers supported with large numbers of aircraft and artillery, began operations against the Rif Republic. Intense combat persisted for ten months, but eventually the combined French and Spanish armies — using, among other weapons, chemical bombs against the population — defeated the forces of Abd el-Krim and inflicted extensive damage on the local Berber population. On May 26, 1926 Abd el-Krim surrendered to the French at his then headquarters of Targuist (Targist).[11][12]


Abdelkrim meeting King Mohamed V. Cairo, January 1960

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As a consequence, he was exiled to the island of Réunion (a French territory in the Indian Ocean) from 1926 to 1947, where he was "given a comfortable estate and generous annual subsidiary." Abd el-Krim was later given permission to live in the south of France, after being released for health concerns, he however succeeded in gaining asylum in Egypt instead, where he presided over the Liberation Committee for the Maghreb, and where he died in 1963, just after seeing his hopes of a Maghreb independent of colonial powers completed by the independence of Algeria.[13]

See also

  • List of people on the cover of Time Magazine: 1920s


  1. ^ M. Tahtah, Entre pragmatisme, reformisme et modernisme: Le role politico-religieux des Khattabi dans le Rif (Maroc) jusqu'a 1926 (Leuven: Peeters, 1999), p.143. Several authors (including Azarqan, Amzyan, Ayache) have given 1882 as the date of bin 'Abd al-Karim's birth. Tahtah suggests it took place between mid-1882 and mid-1883, based on a comparison of the available data.
  2. ^ Castro, Fidel; Ignacio Ramonet, Andrew Hurley. Fidel Castro: My Life : a Spoken Autobiography (2008 ed.). Scribner. pp. 680. ISBN 978-1-4165-5328-1. 
  3. ^ David Montgomery Hart, The Aith Waryaghar of the Moroccan Rif (Tucson, Arizona, 1976) p.370-371
  4. ^ J.Roger-Mathieu, Memoires d'Abd-el-Krim (Paris, 1927) p.56; M. Tahtah, Entre pragmatisme, reformisme et modernisme: Le role politico-religieux des Khattabi dans le Rif (Maroc) jusqu'a 1926 (Leuven: Peeters, 1999), p.144
  5. ^ J.Roger-Mathieu, Memoires d'Abd-el-Krim (Paris, 1927) p.56
  6. ^ David Montgomery Hart, The Aith Waryaghar of the Moroccan Rif (Tucson, Arizona, 1976) p.371
  7. ^ Carolyn P. Boyd , Praetorian Politics in Liberal Spain, p. 175
  8. ^ Modern Spain: 1875-1980 by Raymond Carr, Oxford University Press. Page 94
  9. ^ War in the Shadows: The Guerrilla in History by Robert B. Asprey, iUniverse Publishing. Page 267-274
  10. ^ The History of Spain by Peter Pierson, Greenwood Press. Page 126
  11. ^ The Reader's Companion to Military History by Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker, Houghton Mifflin. Page 1
  12. ^ Who's Who in Military History: From 1453 to the Present Day by John Keegan and Andrew Wheatcroft, Routledge Publishing. Page 2
  13. ^ The History of Spain by Peter Pierson, Greenwood Press. Page 127

Further reading

  • David S. Woolman, Rebels in the Rif: Abd el Krim and the Rif Rebellion, 1968
  • Charles Richard Pennell, A Country with a Government and a Flag: The Rif War in Morocco, 1921-1926, 1986
  • Abdelkrim, Mémoires d'Abd el Krim / recueillis par J. Roger-Mathieu, Paris, Librairie des Champs Elysées, 1927
  • Abdelkrim, Mémoires II, la Crise franco-marocaine, 1955—1956, Paris, Plon, 1984
  • F. Tamburini, I gas nella guerra del Rif, in "Storia Militare", n.145, a.XIII, settembre 2005

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  • Abd el-Krim — Muhammad Ibn Abd al Karim al Khattabi Abd el Krim, Toni 1º Presidente de la República del Rif …   Wikipedia Español

  • ibn — Palabra árabe usada en apellidos, con el mismo significado que «ben». * * * ► Voz árabe que significa «hijo» y que entra en la composición de numerosos nombres árabes. * * * (as used in expressions) Abd al Malik ibn Marwan Abd al Mu min ibn Ali… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Muhammad — /moo ham euhd, hah meuhd/, n. 1. Also, Mohammed, Mahomet. A.D. 570 632, Arab prophet: founder of Islam. 2. Elijah (Elijah Poole), 1897 1975, U.S. clergyman: leader of the Black Muslims 1934 75. 3. a male given name. * * * I or Mohammed born с 570 …   Universalium

  • Abd el-Krim — Infobox Military Person name=Muhammad Ibn Abd El Karim El Khattabi lived=1882 1963 caption=Abd el Krim nickname=Abd el Krim or Abdelkrim placeofbirth=Ajdir, Morocco placeofdeath=Cairo, Egypt allegiance= branch= serviceyears= rank=Guerilla leader… …   Wikipedia

  • ibn — /ib euhn/, (often cap.) son of (used in Arabic personal names): ibn Saud. [ < Ar: son (of); cf. BEN4] * * * (as used in expressions) Abu Ali al Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina Ibn Sina Hasan ibn Ali ibn Abi talib Hussein ibn talal Mawlana Nur al… …   Universalium

  • Muhammad — VER Mohamed * * * (as used in expressions) Abd Allah (ibn Muhammad al Tai ishi) Muhammad ibn Abd al Karim al KhaTTabi Abduh, Muhammad Abu al Fath Jalal al Din Muhammad Akbar Alí, Muhammad Muhammad Abd al Ra uf al Qudwah al Husayni Muhammad Abd al …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • abd — ► masculino Voz común a todas las lenguas semíticas que significa servidor, esclavo. Se emplea al principio de muchos nombres de personajes orientales. * * * (as used in expressions) Abd al Malik ibn Marwan Abd al Mu min ibn Ali Abd al Rahman III …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • ABD — all but dissertation: applied to a person who has completed all requirements for a doctoral degree except for the writing of a dissertation. Also, A.B.D. * * * (as used in expressions) Abu Ali al Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina Mawlana Nur al Din… …   Universalium

  • abd — 1. abdomen. 2. abdominal. * * * (as used in expressions) Abu Ali al Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina Mawlana Nur al Din Abd al Rahman ibn Ahmad Saud ibn Abd al Aziz al Faysal Al Saud Abd al Malik ibn Marwan Abd al Mu min ibn Ali Abd al Rahman III… …   Universalium

  • Abd el-Krim — in full Muḥammad ibn ʽAbd al Karīm al Khaṭṭābī born 1882, Ajdir, Mor. died Feb. 6, 1963, Cairo, Egypt Berber resistance leader against Spanish and French rule in northern Morocco. He was chief Muslim judge for Morocco s Melilla district. He… …   Universalium

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