August 16

This Day in History

General Interest

Aug 16, 1972:

Moroccan king survives attack by own air force

One year after he survived an abortive coup against his rule, King Hassan II of Morocco nearly perishes when the airliner carrying him back to Rabat was fired on by his own air force. The aircraft braved the brief attack by the Royal Moroccan Air Force, and several members of the force were later court-martialed for their grievous error.

Hassan, the former chief of staff of the Moroccan army, ascended to his country's throne in 1961 upon the death of his father, King Muhammad V. In 1965, political unrest and economic difficulties in Morocco led Hassan to declare a state of emergency and assume full executive and legislative control. In the late 1960s, some authority was restored to the elected Moroccan parliament, but in 1970 he declared a second state of emergency. In 1971, he restored token powers to the parliament after a coup threatened his rule, though ultimate authority over his country's affairs remained in his hands.

As king, Hassan pursued a neutralist foreign policy, receiving aid from both the West and communist nations. Unlike other Arab leaders, Hassan also undertook a moderate policy in regard to Israel and guaranteed the safety of the sizable Jewish population in Morocco. In 1976, he controversially annexed much of the former Western Sahara southwest of Morocco. King Hassan's 38 years of autocratic rule came to an end with his death in 1999.

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