Battle of Mogadishu (Somalia, 1993)
|Battle of Mogadishu (Somalia, 1993)
|October 3–5, 1993
|Somali National Alliance
| William F. Garrison
General, US Army
| Mohamed Farrah Aidid
|160 (not including rescue forces)
|2,000-4,000 (including civilians)
Missing or captured: 1 (recovered)
Missing or captured: 21
This article presents the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu.
In October 1993, 160 U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force soldiers were transported in helicopters and armoured vehicles into downtown Mogadishu, Somalia, on a mission to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and other commanders of his militia. But the US special forces raid went tragically wrong. Two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down, and a long urban battle developes in which in which 18 Americans were killed and 73 wounded, and helicopter pilot Michael Durant captured by an angry militia. Hundreds of Somalis were also killed in the fighting.
In 1969, Mohamed Siad Barre (policeman, soldier, politician: born Shiilaabo, Ogaden, Abyssinian Somaliland c1910; Head of State, Somalia 1969-91) took power in a coup, and his military regime nationalized much of Somalia’s small economy in an effort to establish what he called “scientific socialism.” But that failed experiment—coupled with starvation caused by punishing droughts and an ill-conceived war with neighboring Ethiopia in the 1970s and 1980s—only made Somalia a poorer nation. In 1991, Barre was removed from power. As clans led by warlords began to fight among themselves for control of Somalia, the nation collapsed into chaos.
US marines were sent to Somalia in 1992 by then-President George H.W. Bush, as part of a United Nations humanitarian effort that also included 13,000 soldiers from other nations. The original mission was to restore law and order so that starving civilans could be fed. According to a 1995 Congressional investigation, however, the US forces increasingly bore the brunt of taking on the violent warlords and their militias, who threatened the UN’s efforts. After Aidid’s militia ambushed Pakistani peacekeeping forces in June 1993, the UN representative in Somalia, Jonathan Howe, ordered Aidid’s arrest. The job of capturing Aidid and his top lieutenants fell to US special forces, and resulted in ill-fated raid in October 1993.
When the US forces arrived at their target, two of Aidid's top lieutenants were captured. Just when the team thought the mission had been accomplished, a militiaman armed with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher managed to shoot down one of the Black Hawk helicopters, known as Super 6-1. The pilot and co-pilot were killed, and five soldiers were injured, including a Delta sniper who later died from his wounds. A rescue force managed to help the survivors escape, but shortly afterward, a second Black Hawk,Super Six Four was brought down by ground fire. Three crew members were killed, but pilot Michael Durant, who suffered a broken back and leg, survived and was captured.
About 90 Rangers found themselves under siege from heavy militia fire at the first crash site. Despite air support, the Rangers were effectively trapped for the night. With a growing number of wounded needing shelter, the Rangers occupied several hearby houses taking the residents prisoner. Outside, a stiff breeze stirred up blinding brown clouds of dust. The local SNA commander, Colonel Sharif Hassan Giumale decided he would call for a mortar bombardment of the houses rather than lose men in house to house fighting. Giumale had requested 200 mortar bombs and six 60 mm mortars teams. The information that women and children were being held hostage changed his plans.
At the second crash site, two Delta Force snipers, Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon, were inserted by helicopter (at their own request, permission was denied twice by Command but granted when they persisted and made a third request) to protect the injured crew from the approaching militia. Both snipers and three of the Black Hawk crewmen were later killed when the site was overrun by Somali gunmen. The Black Hawk's pilot, Durant, who was seriously injured in the crash, was taken hostage. For their actions, Shughart and Gordon were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Repeated attempts by the Somalis to mass forces and overrun the American positions in a series of firefights near the crash sites, were neutralized by aggressive small arms fire and by strafing and rocket attacks from US helicopter gunships. The Somali National Alliance militia casualties were reportedly 700 killed and about 1000 wounded. However, an English-speaking eyewitness to the battle says the recovery parties for the SNA dead in the vicinity of the battle area would indicate fewer than 60.
Two Delta Force NCOs, Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart, who rushed into the crashzone in an effort to rescue Durant and were killed, were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1994. Durant endured mistreatment from his captors, who eventually released him 11 days later, after negotiations led by US diplomat Robert Oakley.
A rescue convoy from Malaysian and Pakistani UN forces, arrived in the early morning. No contingency planning or coordination with UN forces had been arranged prior to the operation; consequently, the recovery of the surrounded US soldiers was significantly complicated and delayed.
The battle was over by October 4, 1993, at 6:30 AM. American forces were finally evacuated to the UN Pakistani base by the armored convoy. In all, 18 US soldiers died of wounds from the battle and another 79 were injured. The Malaysian forces lost one soldier and had seven injured, while the Pakistanis suffered two injured. Casualties on the Somali side were heavy, with US estimates on militia fatalities ranging from 500 to over 2,000 people. The Somali casualties were a mixture of militiamen and civilians caught in the crossfire. Somali civilians suffered heavy casualties due to the dense urban character of that portion of Mogadishu. Two days later, a mortar round fell on the US compound, killing another US soldier, Sergeant First Class Matt Rierson, and wounding another twelve.
The battle had repercussions. Several days later, President Bill Clinton announced that all US troops would leave Somalia no later than March 31, 1994. On December 15, 1993, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin stepped down, taking much of the blame for what was deemed a failed policy. A few hundred US Marines remained offshore to assist with any evacuation mission that might occur regarding the 1,000-plus US civilians and military advisers remaining as part of the US liaison mission. All U.S. personnel were finally withdrawn by March 1995. In March 1995, the UN mission in Somalia ended. As for the Somali warlord Aidid, any satisfaction that he got from defeating the American forces was short-lived. Less than three years later, he reportedly died of a heart attack after surgery for gunshot wounds.
The Battle of Mogadishu led to a profound shift in American foreign policy, as the Clinton administration became increasingly reluctant to use military forces in Third World conflicts (such as the massacre of an estimated 800,000 to 1,000,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu militia groups in Rwanda in 1994), and affected America's response in the Balkans conflict during the later half of the 1990s. President Clinton preferred to use the airpower and avoid using US ground troops in fighting the Bosnian Serb Army in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 and the Yugoslav Army in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in Kosovo in 1999, out of fear of repeating the losses in Mogadishu in 1993.
Ambassador Robert Oakley, the US special representative to Somalia, estimated that 1,500-2,000 militiamen and civilians were killed in the fighting:
|My own personal estimate is that there must have been 1,500 to 2,000 Somalis killed and wounded that day, because that battle was a true battle. And the Americans and those who came to their rescue, were being shot at from all sides ... a deliberate war battle, if you will, on the part of the Somalis. And women and children were being used as shields and some cases women and children were actually firing weapons, and were coming from all sides. Sort of a rabbit warren of huts, houses, alleys, and twisting and turning streets, so those who were trying to defend themselves were shooting back in all directions. Helicopter gun ships were being used as well as all sorts of automatic weapons on the ground by the U.S. and the United Nations. The Somalis, by and large, were using automatic rifles and grenade launchers and it was a very nasty fight, as intense as any almost any battle you would find.
However, Aideed himself claimed that 315 - civilians and militia - were killed and 812 wounded. Captain Haad, in an interview on American public television, said 133 of the SNA militia were killed.