On 10 July 1971, the Moroccan army carried out a failed coup against the king in the palace of Skhirat. The following year, air force officers committed a new coup. This time King Hassan II’s plane, on its return from France, was attacked in the air by fighter jets.
Amazigh Information Centre has reconstructed this historic event using a series of 17 articles. We have done this on the basis of testimonies from people who experienced this event, such as fighter pilot Salah Hachad, and on the basis of books by critical authors such as Gilles Perrault, Stephen Smith and various newspaper articles.
King Hassan II made good use of the failed attack on him and used it against the soldiers he wanted to eliminate. For example, in addition to imprisoning officers he did not trust, he retired a number of senior officers after the failed attack on Boeing 727. The posts of Minister of Defence and Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces were abolished in 1972.
Hassan II also used the failed coup against his subjects who are more than half illiterate and do not understand the ‘state languages’ of Morocco (Arabic and French). Thus, through radio and television, he let it be known that as a person he possesses extraordinary powers and that God is on his side and therefore survived this second armed attack. Because he is said to be a saint and a descendant of the prophet Mohamed. He also sent his shelled Boeing 727 to Mecca for pilgrimage and after his return he personally received the Hadj Boeing.
The human factor played a role in the king’s escape from death. The captain of King Hassan’s Boeing 727, his private pilot Major Mohamed Kabbaj was a fighter pilot and colleague of the attacking fighter pilots, so he received the same training, had technical knowledge of the F-5 fighters and he knew the qualities of the pilots and all this together enabled him to make a good analysis of the situation and to take the right action when the F-5 fired the first shots at the Boeing 727.
Kabbaj reportedly resigned from the Moroccan Air Force to work as a civilian pilot for the Moroccan national airline Royal Air Maroc RAM before Hassan II appointed him as his private pilot. In the Moroccan Air Force he was listed as a good fighter pilot.
Other factors that contributed to a safe landing of the Royal Boeing: the altitude of the 727 and the distance to the airfield, if the airfield was further away there is a good chance that the Boeing 727 would not have made it to the runway. When the Boeing was attacked by F-5’s it was 15 minutes away from the runway of Rabat-Sale airport. General Oufkir had not given Colonel Amekrane space to deploy more armed fighters or to involve more people in the putsch. At the very last moment the technicians were ordered to arm the three F-5 fighters. The pilots did not have a briefing on the day of the coup about an air raid.
Coups don’t always succeed, even if they are carried out by powerful people in large organisations such as the KGB intelligence service. In 1991, an attempted coup in the former Soviet Union, despite participation in this coup of among others the head of the KGB, Vladimir Kruchkov, and marshal Dmitry Timofeyevich Yazo failed.
But the coup d’état may benefit those in power, such as the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan uses this coup as an excuse to deal with his opponents. And he has opened a manhunt for the Gülenists. Many possible supporters of the Gülen movement have been fired or arrested.
The coups in neighbouring Morocco, Algeria, did not bring any positive change to the country after colonel Houari Boumédienne carried out a coup in 1965. The same applies to Colonel Moammar al-Qadhafi of Libya, Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, General Hafiz al-Assad of Syria and Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
– American pilots underwind problems with the F-5 guns in the Vietnam War. Tijdschrift Militairespectator (Dutch)
– Oufkir, un destin marocain, 1999, Stephen Smith (French)
– Notre ami le roi (1990, Gallimard; 1992, Folio) – A friendly head of state, Hassan II of Morocco, absolute monarch (French/Dutch)
– Kabazal – Les Emmurés de Tazmamart: Mémoires de Salah et Aïda Hachad, 2004, Abdelhak Serhane (French)
– Aboubakr Jamai, le Journal, 2001 Les dessous des cartes du putsch de 1972 (French)
– European Convention on Human Rights Year: 1973, Council of Europe/Conseil de L’Europe (English)
– Historical Dictionary of Morocco, Thomas Kerlin Park, 1996 (English)
– Article about the 1972 coup, The New York Times, 1972 (English)
– Century Witness, Salah Hachad, Al Jazeera Arabic 2009 (Arabic)
– La Prisonniere, Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi, 1999 (French, English, Dutch)
– Les jardins du roi: Oufkir, Hassan II et nous, Fatima Oufkir, 2000 (French/Dutch)
– European Court of Human Rights ruling in the Amekrane case (French)
– Livre blanc sur les droits de l’homme au maroc, 1991(French)
– Officers of Sa Majesté: Les dérives des généraux marocains 1956-2006, 2006, (French)
– Eighteen years of solitude: the imprisonment of the Bourequat brothers in Tazmamart. 1994, Ali-Auguste Bourequat (Dutch)
– Nancy Gatewood Touil, wife of a Mbarek Touil (English)