Sunday, December 5

Juan Manuel de Prada: Remember Monte Arruit


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Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the monstrous massacre of Mount Arruit, the last position where the surviving forces of the Annual Disaster took refuge. The decimated Spanish troops, under the command of General Navarro, arrive at Monte Arruit on July 29, harassed by the jars of Abd-el-Krim and seized by panic. There are a total of 2,500 men, many of them wounded or sick, adding to the 1,000 of the garrison. In the following days, they will fall like flies, gangrene or septicemia, because in the Monte Arruit infirmary they lack medicines and antiseptic means. In addition, ammunition and food are scarce and, above all, the well of the fort is contaminated, so if the besieged wish to

drink, they have to go outside, without any protection, an occasion that the Riffians take advantage of to riddle them.

Although Melilla is barely thirty kilometers away, General Berenguer will never give the order to rescue the besieged; because he fears that, if he assigned part of his troops to this mission, the Riffians could assault the capital. In Monte Arruit the situation becomes distressing: many soldiers lose their sanity, scorched by the sun; others, starving and thirsty, begin to drink their own urine, mixed with sugar. The Riffian chiefs appear at one in the afternoon on August 9, 1921 at the gates of the fort and urge General Navarro to come out to parley. This is what Navarro does, who is wounded in the leg, accompanied by his officers. At the very door of the fort they seal the agreement, with the delivery of the weapons to the Riffians, who in return agree to allow the evacuation of the besieged, with the convoy of wounded at the head. The officers begin to organize the evacuation, while they carry out the delivery of the weapons. And, when they have finished … the traitorous Riffians rush into the fort with great screams, in a previously planned movement, firing at the starving, exhausted and defenseless soldiers.

Only the officers who had come out to parley with Navarro will be saved from death, as well as the soldiers who manage to play dead, mingled with the corpses of their companions. The rest will be atrociously tortured, dismembered, carved open by Rifian vermin, in an orgy of blood that lasts hours. Those who still have the strength to run will be shot and slaughtered with gumia, while the whores of their executioners pound their skulls with stones and tear off their entrails. Hundreds of corpses will rot under the hot sun, or serve as food for vultures and other scavenging fauna, during the following months, until the square is recovered on October 24 by the Spanish Army, which advances dismayed by that nightmare landscape, barely holding back tears and tears. They will come to identify the bodies of 2,668 dead men, most of them savagely mutilated.

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