Rabat – Fifteen years after the Leila Island military conflict on July 17, 2002, a video has been released showing the events of the 20-minute-long military action during which 28 members of the Spanish military captured six Moroccan soldiers.
In the three-minute video published by Madrid-based newspaper interviu on July 17, the Spanish forces are seen placing bags over the heads of the surrendered Moroccan soldiers.
The Spanish flag is then raised on the islet, while helicopters fly overhead.
The faces of the Spanish soldiers are blurred to conceal their identities, and the forces later gather for photos in front of one helicopter.
Situated 250 meters off the Moroccan coast and 13.5km from mainland Spain, uninhabited Leila island [‘Perejil’ in Spanish] became the center of an “unprecedented crisis” between the two nations when a Spanish patrol took offence to seeing a Moroccan flag that was raised on the island on July 11, 2002.
Tensions escalated when Spanish soldiers went onto the island to explore and were confronted by Moroccans, who allegedly forced them back to their boats at gunpoint. Spain retaliated on July 17, dropping 28 members of its special forces onto the island in three helicopters, with a further two nearby. The European nation also stationed five warships and two submarines near the island, greatly outnumbering the single vessel Morocco had in place.
Morocco’s then-Foreign Minister Mohamed Benaissa accused Spain’s actions of being “equivalent to a declaration of war,” noting the islet was “an integral part” of Moroccan territory. Morocco maintains that Leila has been Moroccan since the country became independent in 1956 and has said the island is instrumental in fighting terrorism and illegal immigrant trafficking.