A strategically important Saharan town in western Algeria, situated near large mineral deposits.
Tindouf is close to Algeria's borders with Mauritania, Morocco, and Western Sahara. It was an administrative outpost built largely by the French colonial government and became a political and economic hub in the years after Algeria gained independence from France in 1962. Rich deposits of phosphates and iron ore dominate the region, particularly at Gara Djebilet, 93 miles (150 km) to the southeast. Tindouf became the capital of the Western Saharan government-in-exile after Morocco's invasion of what was then the Spanish Sahara in 1975 and 1976. Both Algeria and Libya assisted POLISARIO (Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el Hamra y Río de Oro) in its bid for an independent state, which froze relations between Algeria and Morocco throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, oil and natural gas deposits discovered nearby have increased Tindouf's importance in regional politics and economic development. The Algerian government signed exploratory agreements with major European energy companies in the early 2000s for the Tindouf basin, and Morocco signed similar agreements with American energy companies for Western Sahara. This heightened competition over natural resources threatened what had been improving relations between Algeria and Morocco as well as the fragile cease-fire agreement between Morocco and POLISARIO.
The 1998 Algerian census estimated Tindouf's population at 27,000. However, this figure does not include the nearby refugee camps, which are estimated to house 180,000 Reguibat refugees from Western Sahara.
see alsoalgeria: overview; arab maghreb union; polisario; western sahara; western sahara war.
Hodges, Tony. Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War. Westport, CT: L. Hill, 1983.