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North Africa Campaign
Part of Middle Eastern theatre of World War I
Sahara satellite hires.jpg
A satellite view of North Africa.
Date 1915-1917
Location Libya, Morroco, & Egypt
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Kingdom of Italy
 France

Flag of Libya (1951).svg Senussi Insurgents
Flag of the Republic of the Rif.svg Morrocan rebels
Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire
Commanders
Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Other Generals
Ahmed Sharif es Senussi
Nuri Pasha

The North Africa Campaign was conflicts at the southwest Libya and southern Tripolitania during the World War I. Ottoman Empire's intention was to open a new front, which would draw British troops from Sinai and Palestine Campaign and thus reduce the strength of the opposition faced by the Germans in other fronts. Italians wanted the Ottomans to force reversal of the non-compliance of the Ottoman state, which was disputed, with the provisions of the Ouchy Treaty.

Background

The region was annexed by Italy in 1911 after the Italo-Turkish War and France in 1912, respectively, and were barely controlled when war broke out in Europe. After the loss of the province of Trablusgarp to Italy in the war of 1911-1912, the local Sanusi tribe continued with their resistance against the Italians. Fighting was conducted by Sanusi militia under the leadership of Ahmad al-Sharif, whose followers in Fezzan (southwest Libya) and southern Tripolitania prevented Italian consolidation in these regions. The Ottoman government never ceased to provide assistance to the local tribesmen in the region.

Operations

In 1915, the Ottomans tried to seize the Suez Canal in Egypt and the recently deposed Khedive Abbas II, but were pulled back by the British. On 24 May 1915, Italy declared war on Central Powers, and the Italian-Sanussi War became a part of the World War. German and Ottoman agents encouraged rebellions against the Allies in Libya and Morocco, providing light weapons via U-Boats sailing from shores of the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary or through neutral countries like Spain. The Senussi sect was particullarly successful in the Sahara, expelling the Italians from Fezzan and tying British and French forces in the frontier regions of Egypt and Algeria.

In 1916, in th Senussi Uprising, Ottoman officers led the Senussis (under Ahmed Sharif es Senussi) to penetrate into Egypt, which was guarded by the British. British forces had to evacuate Sollum and Seyd-i Barani, retreating to the town of Matrukh. Sanusis fallowed the British and launched an offensive towards Matrukh. British dispersed the opposing forces and Ahmad al-Sharif gave up Sanusi political and military leadership. He had lost influence considerably, not only because of the loss on the battlefield but also due to the differences of opinion surfacing among Senussi sheikhs.

In 1917, as an attempt to organize the efforts which was dispersed by British, the Ottoman General Staff established the “Army Group Africa”, of which the primary objective was the coastal regions of Libya. The first commander of this army group was Lieutenant Colonel Nuri Bey (later Nuri Pasha). Italian forces, which were trapped in Zuwarah, Al Khums, and Tripoli, attempted to break through the encirclement twice in January and April 1917, both without success. In September, a major offensive by the Army Group Africa on Tripoli firmly established the defense.

Aftermath

Berber revolts in Morocco and Libya would continue well after the end of the war, till their final suppression in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

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