COUP OF THE AVIATORS
Today, August 16, marks the 46th anniversary of the 1972 Moroccan coup d'etat attempt.
The coup occurred a year after another attempted military coup against King Hassan II's regime, when 250 rebels based in the Ahermoumou cadet training school attacked the king's Skhirat palace on his 42nd birthday. King Hassan survived only by hiding behind a toilet in an annex building. On 16 August 1972, as Hassan was returning to Morocco from a personal visit to France, four air force pilots, flying Northrop F-5 fighter jets, attacked the royal plane, a Boeing 727 (photo 1). The planes shot holes through the fuselage, killing some passengers. One plane broke off, strafing a nearby airfield and killing many on the ground. The royal palace in Rabat was also attacked.
Allegedly, the rebel pilots broke off their attack on the king's aircraft after the king himself grabbed the radio and told the rebel pilots, "Stop firing! The tyrant is dead!" Believing their mission to have been accomplished, the rebel pilots broke off their attack, and the Boeing 727 was able to land, only one of its three jet engines still functioning.
The leaders of the coup attempt were Minister of Defense Mohammed Oufkir, and Lt-Colonel Mohammed Amekrane (photo 2). Oufkir was found shot in the royal palace later that same day, officially from a suicide (however, he had multiple bullet wounds in his back). Amekrane fled by helicopter to Gibraltar, but was later returned to Morocco were he was tried and executed. Hundreds of pilots and air force officers were arrested, and many executed. Oufkir's entire family, including his six children, was held in a secret prison jail by king Hassan for almost 20 years, and his youngest daughter, Malika Oufkir, would later write a memoir, "Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail." First published in 1999 in French as La Prisonirre, the book later became an Oprah Winfrey's Book Club selection and a New York Times nonfiction best seller. Gilles Perrault, a French journalist, would later say to The New York Times that the Oufkir family had been pursued with "an inextinguishable desire for vengeance that is beyond any logic." CONTINUED IN COMMENTS