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When an Arab tribe of Tauregs ambush a Sahara patrol of French Legionnaires, only two men survive, Capt. Robert Edwards and Sgt. Pierre Benet. Upon reaching Fort Neuf, Edwards is ordered to form a new patrol and warn the Legionnaires at the North Outpost fort about the Taureg uprising. Before leaving on his mission, Edwards finds his wife Celie in the arms of Lt. Richard Forbes. Celie feels that her husband is more devoted to the Legion than to her, and has turned to Forbes for solace. Feeling betrayed, Edwards leads his patrol into the desert. While stopped at a watering hole, they are joined by Forbes and his men, who have been sent to recall Edwards to the fort to bolster the force against a possible Taureg attack. Defying orders, Edwards insists on continuing on to North Outpost to warn the men there about an impending attack. When Forbes observes that the trek to North Outpost is a suicide mission, Edwards orders him to join him, prompting Forbes to accuse Edwards of trying to kill him because of his relationship with Celie. Marsaya, one of Forbes' men whose family was slaughtered by the Tauregs, asks for permission to ride along with them. At nightfall, Pvt. Hoffstetter, whose wife is about to give birth at Fort Neuf, and Pvt. Bergstrom, who has fallen ill, decide to desert and return to the fort. After leaving camp, they are attacked by the Tauregs, who kill Bergstrom. Hoffstetter is saved by a rescue party. Later, as bait to lure the other Legionnaires, who are taunted by the sound of distant Taureg drums, the Taureg capture Legionnaire scout Kufra and stake him in the sand. Corp. Carlo Parini and Musraya come to his rescue, but discover that Kufra is on the verge of death after being mutilated. The Tauregs then strike again, killing Marsaya. Later, Parini captures a Taureg named Ahitagel, who defiantly proclaims that the Legionnaires will have a Holy War on their hands in two days. Although the Taureg leader, Holy Marabout, wants peace with the Legionnaires, Ahitagel and his band of insurgents are determined to annihilate the foreigners. Marabout will soon be leaving North Outpost to ride to Fort Neuf to celebrate twenty-five years of peace, and the insurgents plan to ambush and kill him, then blame the attack on the Legionnaires, thus uniting the tribe against the foreigners. The mission to North Outpost now takes on new importance, and after killing Ahitagel, Edwards orders Forbes to ride ahead as scout. When Forbes fails to return, the men revolt and insist on looking for him, but just then Forbes appears and states that the Taureg do not seem to be interested in attacking them. After Forbes and Edwards fight over Celie, Privates Corbo and Kabussyan volunteer to ride ahead and scout the area. As the Legionnaires continue on, the Tauregs attack, killing five men and wounding Edwards. Kabussyan and Corbo then return to report that the patrol is only five kilometers from the outpost, and that the French flag is still flying over the fort. Knowing that he is dying, Edwards puts Forbes in command, and Forbes assures the dying man his wife still loves him. Forbes then assumes command, and as they near the fort, the Taureg swarm out of the dunes. Just then the gates of the fort open and the Holy Men start to ride out. Forbes and his men watch in alarm, then fire at the Tauregs, setting themselves up as targets. After the Tauregs attack Forbes and his men, the Holy Men hear the shots and retreat back into the safety of the fort. Forbes is hit by an enemy bullet, and Benet and Pvt. Bandurski, the two remaining Legionnaires, dismount and try to drag him to safety. The Legionnaires from the fort provide cover by firing at the Tauregs, driving them away. After Benet and Bandurski drag Forbes inside the fort gates, the Holy Man puts his hand on the dying man's shoulder to thank him. Benet and Bandurski then salute their fallen comrade.