Wartime banditry in North Africa?

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Komi
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Wartime banditry in North Africa?

Post by Komi » 05 Jan 2021 22:50

I'm not sure about the eastern regions like Egypt, but I know that in Morocco there were still issues with outlaws like Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni at least up to WW1. So considering this, was banditry anywhere in North Africa still a factor during WW2, particularly since the chaos of the fighting would have distracted the local colonial powers? By "banditry" here I mean outlaws who operated primarily for personal profit rather than political cause.

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Sheldrake
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Re: Wartime banditry in North Africa?

Post by Sheldrake » 05 Jan 2021 23:20

The distinction between bandits and irregular soldiers depends on ones point of view. Outlaws, like Robin Hood and the IRA also claim political legitimacy. In a time of war bandits become hired hands or affiliate to one side.

The Libyan tribesmen opposed to Italian occupation became allies of the British. Three battalions of Senussi Arabs formed the Libyan Frontier Force. 82 are listed in the CWGC records https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find- ... ionalInfo=

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Re: Wartime banditry in North Africa?

Post by Komi » 06 Jan 2021 11:40

Sheldrake wrote:
05 Jan 2021 23:20
The distinction between bandits and irregular soldiers depends on ones point of view. Outlaws, like Robin Hood and the IRA also claim political legitimacy. In a time of war bandits become hired hands or affiliate to one side.
In Manchuria and Mongolia during the early days of the Japanese invasion, there were gangs of outlaws who had been operating before the war and continued to do so autonomously when the fighting started, raiding or extorting tribute from rural villages for their own profit, not under orders from any government or political party. Later, as the Japanese consolidated their position, they were mostly crushed or absorbed by either the Japanese or Chinese sides, but the point is that, for a time during this conflict, they had operated autonomously as bandits without any claimed allegiance to either side, just as they had before the war. That's the kind of thing I was asking about in relation to North Africa: people who, at least for a time during the war, conducted banditry without affiliation to either side, but purely for their own personal profit.
Sheldrake wrote:
05 Jan 2021 23:20
The Libyan tribesmen opposed to Italian occupation became allies of the British. Three battalions of Senussi Arabs formed the Libyan Frontier Force. 82 are listed in the CWGC records https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find- ... ionalInfo=
I'll have a look in to that, thanks.

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Re: Wartime banditry in North Africa?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 06 Jan 2021 13:57

Hi Komi,

I am not sure that it is easy to distinguish between the two.

Most of North Africa had been conquered off the the locals in living memory. The French and Spanish conducted their last joint military campaign in Morocco in the 1920s. (Franco and Petain were both involved).

The Italians did not complete the conquest of the Senussi in Libya until the early 1930s. (The barbed wire fence on the Egyptian/Libyan border, known simply to British troops in WWII as "The Wire", was part of this.)

So there was a lot of recent unrest and lack of respect for colonial authority in both.

I wouldn't be surprised if bandits and resistance guerrillas weren't sometimes much the same people. The Italians seem to use the word "banditi" to cover both.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Wartime banditry in North Africa?

Post by Komi » 06 Jan 2021 14:48

Sid Guttridge wrote:
06 Jan 2021 13:57
Those are fair points Sid, I may well be asking for too much clarity in a muddy situation. I'm sure there were anti-colonial rebels who were just as capable of selfishly motivated robbery/kidnapping as any unaligned outlaw, and I'm sure there was overlap between the two, as in many other parts of the world. I just thought it was worth asking, given how I know of other examples (e.g. Manchuria during the 1930s, or Siberia during the 1920s) where outlaws without prior political affiliation took advantage of the chaos of a war to carry out acts of banditry for their own gain.

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Re: Wartime banditry in North Africa?

Post by Urmel » 07 Jan 2021 20:04

There was a lot of Arab guerilla activity targeting Italian settlers in particular during lawless periods of retreats/advances when order broke down. Murder, rape, plunder all featured. Given that these settlers were there due to a genocidal colonisation project, it will be hard to distinguish legitimate resistance from outright criminal activity, and I don't think anyone really bothered with it.
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Re: Wartime banditry in North Africa?

Post by Komi » 07 Jan 2021 20:25

Urmel wrote:
07 Jan 2021 20:04
There was a lot of Arab guerilla activity targeting Italian settlers in particular during lawless periods of retreats/advances when order broke down. Murder, rape, plunder all featured. Given that these settlers were there due to a genocidal colonisation project, it will be hard to distinguish legitimate resistance from outright criminal activity, and I don't think anyone really bothered with it.
I guess one way to help determine the underlying motivations of people like that, if it's possible, would be to see whether these same guys were equally plundering Arab communities, or only targeting Europeans with their banditry. Doesn't make it better either way, but at least it'd show whether these guys attempted the veneer of anti-colonial fighters and picked their targets with some nominal political motivation, or were just unabashed outlaws who robbed whoever crossed their path, Arab and Italian alike. The latter is the kind of thing I was asking about. In my eyes, at least, a legitimate resistance fighter doesn't steal from the people he claims to fight for; bandits do that.

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Re: Wartime banditry in North Africa?

Post by Berto » 09 Jan 2021 23:58

Sid Guttridge wrote:
06 Jan 2021 13:57
I wouldn't be surprised if bandits and resistance guerrillas weren't sometimes much the same people. The Italians seem to use the word "banditi" to cover both.
Well, that was a deliberate choice of words. Fascists refused to recognize any resistance within occupied territories as legitimate, and consequently deemed all guerrillas as bandits.

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Re: Wartime banditry in North Africa?

Post by Komi » 10 Jan 2021 11:13

Berto wrote:
09 Jan 2021 23:58
Well, that was a deliberate choice of words. Fascists refused to recognize any resistance within occupied territories as legitimate, and consequently deemed all guerrillas as bandits.
The Japanese did the same in Manchuria, although in their case some of the people they dealt with were actual bandits who were just as happy to rob local Chinese as anyone else.

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