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Toronto (Canada)

22th Jan. 2002

M. M. Afrah



Ten days later, the Pakistanis opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators, killing at least 14 Aideed supporters and wounding many others. US AC-130 flying gunship blitzed Aideed's cantonment and destroyed a second ammunition dump and a mosque nearby. It was the fourth air strikes by Black Hawks hitting back for the killing of the 24 Pakistanis blamed on Aideed supporters. But most of the air raids were blind exercises, without clearly defined targets and have killed hundreds of innocent civilians and wounded many more.

Witnesses say the Pakistanis opened fire without warning when crowds converged on streets around a south Mogadishu hotel. A UN probe found "gunmen, other than the Pakistanis, fired on dispersing civilians who protested against the Black Hawk attacks on civilian populated areas earlier in the week.

Ambassador Oakley accused Aideed's Somali National Alliance/United Somali Congress (USC) of "obviously targeting peace keeping forces, and using women and children as human shield".

Aideed's arrest warrant issued with 25,000 dollars cash reward failed to have any impact, but instead alienated more people against the Americans and the United Nations.

"He is here, there and everywhere," boosted one of Aideed's supporters when asked where his boss was holed up.

In what appeared to be his last press briefing in Somalia, Admiral Howe said: "First of all, I would want him to come forward peacefully. We of course, have an effort to find where he is."

Admiral (retired) Howe who had a way of appearing to smile when insolent journalists said something he found disagreeable, particularly when asked why he turned the Somalia debacle as personal or the latest civilian casualty figures. He repeated earlier unconvincing allegation that another source, not the Pakistanis fired on the crowd. He however, refused to name the other source.


On streets in the north, controlled by Ali Mahdi, bewildered crowds poured out to watch the smoke and gunfire. In the old towns of Shangani and Hamar-weyne thousands of people watched as scores of Black Hawk helicopters continued to attack targets in the south with missiles and anti-tank rockets. In the traffic circle at K-4 near Saxafi Hotel where the international journalists stayed, machinegun fire blew off the heads of several people, including a young child, whose body was carried away by wailing women. Again, no casualty figures have been reported. Somalis say 25 people were killed in that street alone. Again the producers of the film "BLACK HAWK DOWN" conveniently ignored these facts.

One bright side to the mayhem was that food, clean water and medicine were readily available for the first time since the civil war erupted in 1991. However religious zealots hand-in-glove with warehouse owners who sold food at prices beyond the reach of most of the population, shouted in street corners saying that the Americans were trying to convert the Somali people into Christianity, but few people stopped to listen to their discourse. Using megaphones they urged the people not to eat the food freely provide by the Red Cross and CARE International. Across the street several US Marines with cocked guns watched the preachers under their eyelids.

Cracks began to appear in the humanitarian efforts when the head of a European charity "Medicines sans Frontiers" (Doctors without Borders) accused the United Nations of committing "humanitarian crisis in Somalia." MSF President Rony Brauman charged that the international body and the US turned the Horn of Africa nation into a test bed for "creating a permanent military intervention force," implying that the Americans were testing their new "smart" bombs in Somalia.

In a 30-page declaration Mr. Brauman said the priority of emergency assistance had been overtaken by "the right of vengeance" and with repeated and bloody raids against Somali civilians in strikes to punish Mogadishu militia men for attacks on UN troops."

Senator Sam Nunn, the Chairman of Senate Armed Forces Committee said that expanding the peace keeping mission in Somalia was a mistake and it's time for Congress to narrow the US role there so it has a definite ending point. Senator Robert Byrd of Virginia, a member of President Clinton's Party called for a rapid withdrawal before more Americans are killed. "I think the capture of one person is not going to end this," Senator Byrd said.

As October 1993 sixty-five UN soldiers have been killed in Somalia since the UN operation (UNOSOM II) began. The Somali casualty figures climbed to the 1,000 mark, mostly civilians. Four journalists were killed after angry mobs attacked them at the scene of a UN raid on one of Aideed's command post. At least two other journalists were reported wounded during the attack in which Reuters' photographers Dan Eldon, Hoss Maina, televison soundman Anthony Macharia and Associated Press (AP) Photographer Hansi Krauss died. A correspondent for Italian State Television (RAI), Ilara Alpi returned safely to the hotel that housed most foreign journalists after being reported missing. Hardcore criminals who escaped from Mogadishu's Central Prison later killed Miss Alpi during her second assignment in Somalia. Her Somali bodyguards and driver were also killed.


Ahmed Jila'o is a balding gray-haired in his late sixties. He was Chief of Siyad Barre's National Security Service (NSS) Banadir Region and one time the mayor of Mogadishu. He co-chaired the new UN Police Committee and helped reorganize the Somali Police Force that disintegrated following the downfall of General Barre's regime.

The smiling, soft-spoken Jila'o remotedly resembles General Aideed. He also belongs to Aideed's rival clan. Nevertheless, dozens of crack American troops slid from their hovering Black Hawk helicopters, just as prominent clan elders, including former Vice President, Hussein Kulmiye, were meeting in Ahmed Jila'o's villa overlooking the Indian Ocean. The villa was located in Ali Mahdi's stronghold, the last place Aideed would ever hide. The American Army Rangers and Delta Force arrested the elders, thinking they were arresting Aideed and his aides, despite denial by Jila'o that he was not the wanted man. But when a soldier hit him with a rifle butt he reluctantly admitted he was the fugitive general!

"This is an example of the misleading intelligence reports the Americans were fed with by people who pose bona fide informers," an old man told journalists who rushed to the scene. He said he hid in the washroom to escape the dragnet.

Ali Mahdi's clan who until now refused to get involved in the US/UN imbroglio in Somalia, poured out into the streets to protest the arrest of the prominent elders.

Two hours later, the elders were released and returned to the villa, when Ambassador Oakley and Admiral Howe realized the glaring mistake the soldiers had made. An apology wasn't good enough for Ali Mahdi's clan. They wanted more than an apology from people who bungled operations after operations despite their hi-tech military gadgets, including AC-130 flying gunships, sky cameras, night vision goggles and guns with night-scope.

Then one day the hunt for General Aideed was abruptly dropped without explanations to the thousands of international journalists who converged in Mogadishu to cover the "big profile".

Note to visitors of unlike the movie "BLACK HAWK DOWN" which turned out to be a fantasy, there is nothing in these series of articles, which has not happened. Many Somalis and independent eyewitnesses corroborated every single episode that took place in Mogadishu in 1993. Nevertheless, some well meaning visitors to this Website who claimed that they too were there in those fateful days, said that although they accepted my in-depth appraisals, I should have mentioned the names of General Aideed's and Ali Mahdi's clans who were at loggerhead in Mogadishu's clan warfare. Like many Somalis, I feel embarrassed to mention the names of Somali clans because I feel that I had outgrown the cancer that's tribalism or clannism for a very long time now. And it has been my unwavering position that we should dump this cancer once and for all - a cancer that has shattered our nation beyond redemption. But to the clan leaders it means the license to rob, steal, divide and kill. Anyway, mentioning the names of the two men's rival clans would have made no differences at all.

Once again I thank you very much from the bottom of my heart for your encouraging emails. As before the number is staggering which confirms that you love your country and cherish fair play, not fantasy as depicted in the film BLACK HAWK DOWN.

M.M. Afrah 2002



Reuters long time correspondent, M.M. Afrah was there when military dictator, Major Mohamed Siyad Barre came to power in a military and police coup in October 1969. He was there when General Barre was ousted from power by poorly trained, poorly equipped youths in beach sandals, after more than two decades in power. He was there when the militia youths turned their guns on each other for the control of Mogadishu, the Somali capital. He was there the US Marines, Army Rangers and the Delta Forces stormed the beaches of Mogadishu to spearhead an international task force under the code name of Operation Restore Hope. And he was there to see them leave. He watched as their initial goodwill turn into an impotent rage, and saw their efforts to impose Western-style democracy end up in fiasco. It cost the UN and US billions of dollars and the lives of several UN and US soldiers end up in body bags. The cost to Mr. Afrah was one of his sons and the destruction of his house after it received a direct hit from a tank shell. He buried his son at the steps of his demolished house. In an article in the British edition of ESQUIRE magazine, Aiden Hartley, who worked with Afrah in Somalia, described his frontline reporting as "A Bravery under Fire."


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