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Commune of Mers El Kébir
بلدية المرسى الكبير
Map of Algeria highlighting Oran Province
Map of Oran Province highlighting Mers El Kébir Municipality
ONS code 3115
Postal code 31310
Province Oran
District Aïn El Turk
PMA Seats 9
Area 10.98 km² (4 sq mi)
Altitude 0 m (3 ft)
Population 16950 (2006)
Density 1 544/km² (3 998/sq mi)
Time Zone Central European Time (UTC+1)

Mers-el-Kébir (Arabic: المرسى الكبير‎, “the Great Harbor”) is a port town in northwestern Algeria, located by the Mediterranean Sea near Oran, in the Oran Province.



Originally a Roman port, Mers-el-Kébir became an Almohad naval arsenal in the 1100s, fell under the rulers of Tlemcen in the 1400s, and eventually became a center of pirate activity around 1492. It was occupied variously by the Ottoman Turks, Portuguese and Spanish, with the Spanish (which named it Mazalquivir) capturing it in 1505 under Cardinal Cisneros. Mazalquivir was the base used to capture neighbour Oran in 1509. The Spanish hold both cities until 1708, when they were driven out by Turkish Bey Mustapha Ben Youssef (also known as Bouchelaghem). The Spanish returned in 1732 when the armada of the Duke of Montemar was victorious in the Battle of Aïn-el-Turk and took again Oran and Mazalquivir. Both cities were hold until 1792, when they were sold by the king Charles IV to the Bey of Algiers.

The French occupied it in 1830, and rename it Saint André de Mers-el-Kébir, enhancing the port in 1868 with an eponymous lighthouse,[1] the latter was destroyed during World War II.

Following the German defeat of France in 1940, part of the French fleet holed up in the port. On July 3, 1940, Force H of the British Royal Navy attacked the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir to stop it falling into German hands.

Old photograph of Cimetier street

After World War II, France used its naval base at Mers-el-Kébir to assist in atomic tests. The Évian Accords of March 18, 1962, which recognized Algerian independence, allowed France to maintain its base for 15 years; however, France withdrew within five years.

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Coordinates: 35°44′N 0°43′W / 35.733°N 0.717°W / 35.733; -0.717



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