Ma'tan as-Sarra is an oasis in the Kufra District municipality in the southeast corner of Libya. It is located in the Libyan Desert, 322 kilometres (200 mi) southwest of Kufra. A marginal oasis, with few palms and substandard water, it allowed the creation in 1811 of the last trans-Saharan caravan route. However, it historically has been little visited by Toubou and Zaghawa nomads.
In 1934, Ma'tan as-Sarra was turned over as part of the Sarra Triangle to Italy by the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, who considered the area worthless sand and a cheap appeasement to Benito Mussolini's attempts at empire.
In 1972, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi felt that Gaafar Nimeiry of Sudan had betrayed the Arab cause by signing the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement ending the civil war. He thus established a base at Ma'tan as-Sarra to stockpile weapons and as a staging area for Sudanese insurgents, who were trained at the bases at Joudaim and Ma'sar Ra's near Tripoli. In July 1976, one thousand followers of Sudanese opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi left the oasis and stormed Khartoum after crossing northern Darfur and Kordofan. Al-Mahdi's force was defeated only after a tank battalion struck into the city after three days of heavy fighting.
Libya also established Maaten al-Sarra Air Base, which was heavily used during the Chadian-Libyan conflict (1978-1987). The base was subject to a highly successful raid in September 1987 by the Chadian army that contributed to the signing of a ceasefire the same month.
- Burr, J. Millard and Robert O. Collins, Darfur: The Long Road to Disaster, Markus Wiener Publishers: Princeton, 2006, ISBN 1-55876-405-4, p. 111
- Burr and Collins, 2006, p. 137
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