Mers-el-Kebir mĕrs-ĕl-kəbĭr´ [key], town, NW Algeria, on the Gulf of Oran. Originally a Roman port, it has a long history of maritime importance. During the 15th cent. it was a center of activity for corsairs and was twice occupied by the Portuguese. The Spanish held the town from 1505 to 1792 the French arrived in the 19th cent. After France's defeat by Germany in June, 1940, the French fleet sought refuge at Mers-el-Kebir, but the British navy sank or damaged most of the ships. The great French naval base at Mers-el-Kebir came to include subterranean installations where atomic tests were held. In 1962 the Evian Agreement, by which Algerian independence was acknowledged, allowed France to maintain the Mers-el-Kebir base for 15 years however, the French evacuated the base in 1967.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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