HL Deb 13 August 1901 vol 99 cc585-6

My Lords, I beg to ask the Under Secretary for India whether he can give the House any information regarding recent military operations near Aden, their object and results.


My Lords, I am very glad to be able to supply the information asked for. In March, 1900, a Turkish subject, Sheikh Mahomed Nazir Mukhbil, established himself in a small fortified post in the country of the Haushabis, one of the nine tribes near Aden under a British protectorate. The boundaries of the protectorate were surveyed and mapped out by a British party in 1891. About the time to which I have referred—namely, in March, 1900—a party of Turkish troops proceeded to garrison the post. A reference to the Porte was made by Her late Majesty's Government, in the course of which the Turkish Minister of War expressed his disapproval of the Sheikh's action, and the fort was shortly afterwards evacuated. But after the withdrawal of the troops the Sheikh Mahomed Nazir Mukhbil himself re-occupied the fort. The Haushabis protested against this intrusion, and further representations were made to the Porte, which in April last assured His Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople that the commander of the Turkish troops in Yemen would make the Sheikh withdraw. But, whatever orders may have been given, the Sheikh remained in possession; and the Turkish Government was informed that steps would be taken by the British to remove the intruder. A force of the Haushabis accordingly proceeded, with the sanction of the Resident at Aden, on 27th June, to clear their territory and to destroy the fort. Unfortunately, however, they met with strong and unexpected resistance from a large force, and were unable to effect their object without artillery. In consequence of these operations having been unsuccessful, on 14th July a mixed force of 200 British troops and 200 native infantry, with six mountain guns, left Aden, with strict orders not to cross the Turkish frontier, but to expel the occupants of the fort. The attack was delivered on 26th July, and an obstinate resistance encountered. By that evening the village and hills overlooking the fort were taken, and on the following morning the position was found to be abandoned by the enemy. The fort was blown up, and the troops were ordered to remain until all prospect of further attack was removed. They withdrew to Musemir on 4th August, and returned to Aden quite recently. The Turkish frontier was not crossed, and strict orders have been given to the Haushabis to respect it. The Turkish soldiers who were taken prisoners and were able to leave were taken to the frontier and released, as an act of courtesy to the Turkish Government, whoso serious attention has been called to the improper conduct of their troops. The matter is now forming the subject of inquiry by the Porte. I have only to add that His Excellency the Viceroy reports that Major Rowe, who was in command of the expedition, consisting of 200 men of the 1st Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment and 200 men of the 5th Bombay Infantry and Bombay Sappers and Miners and officers, successfully coped with serious difficulties and deserve credit. The conduct of the troops throughout seems to have been satisfactory, and the list of casualties, I may mention, was a small one.