The Battle of Mogadishu (Somali: Maalintii Rangers, lit. '”Day of the Rangers”‘), also known as the Black Hawk Down incident, was part of Operation Gothic Serpent.
It was fought on 03-04 October 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, between forces of the United States – supported by UNOSOM II – and Somali militiamen loyal to Mohamed Farrah Aidid. It was part of the broader Somali Civil War, which had intensified since 1991 and threatened famine; the UN had become engaged to provide food aid, but eventually shifted their mission to establish democracy and restore a secure government.
Standing in the way was Aidid, who refused to cooperate with the UN. The American Task Force Ranger was dispatched to seize two of Aidid’s high-echelon lieutenants during a meeting in the city. The goal of the operation was achieved, although it was a pyrrhic victory and conditions spiralled into the deadly Battle of Mogadishu. The initial operation of 03 October 1993, intended to last an hour, became an overnight standoff and rescue operation extending into the daylight hours of 04 October 1993.
The assault was planned to include an air and ground phase. As the mission was ongoing, Somali forces shot down two American Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters using RPG-7s. A desperate defence of the downed helicopters began, which would become dramatised in the 2001 film Black Hawk Down. Fighting lasted through the night to defend the survivors of the crashes, including the insertion of two US Army Delta Force operators who would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour. In the morning, a UNOSOM II armoured convoy fought their way to the helicopters, incurring further casualties but eventually rescuing the survivors.
Casualties included 19 dead American soldiers and 73 wounded, with Malaysian forces suffering one death and seven wounded, and Pakistani forces suffering one death and two injuries. There were between 315 and 2,000 Somali casualties. The battle shifted American foreign policy and led to an eventual pullout of the UN mission. The American withdrawal was ridiculed by Al-Qaeda, who may have been responsible for training the fighters that downed the helicopters. In the aftermath of the battle, dead American soldiers were dragged through the streets by Somalis, which was shown on American television – to public outcry. Fear of a repeat of the battle was a reason for American reluctance to get further involved in the region, and some scholars argue that it was a major factor that affected the Clinton administration’s decision to not intervene in the Rwandan genocide, which took place six months later.
In January 1991, Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown by a coalition of opposing clans, precipitating the Somali Civil War. The Somali National Army concurrently disbanded, and some former soldiers reconstituted as irregular regional forces or joined the clan militias. The main rebel group in the capital Mogadishu was the United Somali Congress (USC), which later divided into two armed factions: one led by Ali Mahdi Muhammad, who became president; and the other by Mohamed Farrah Aidid. In total, four opposition groups competed for political control: the USC; the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF); the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM); and the Somali Democratic Movement (SDM). A ceasefire was agreed to in June 1991, but failed to hold. A fifth group, the Somali National Movement (SNM), declared independence in the northwest portion of Somalia later in June. The SNM renamed this unrecognised territory Somaliland, and selected its leader Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur as president.
In September 1991, severe fighting broke out in Mogadishu, which continued in the following months and spread throughout the country, with over 20,000 people killed or injured by the end of the year. These wars led to the destruction of Somalia’s agriculture, which in turn led to starvation in large parts of the country. The international community began to send food supplies to halt the starvation, but vast amounts of food were hijacked and brought to local clan leaders, who routinely exchanged it with other countries for weapons. An estimated 80% of the food was stolen. These factors led to even more starvation, from which an estimated 300,000 people died and another 1.5 million people suffered between 1991 and 1992. In July 1992, after a ceasefire between the opposing clan factions, the UN sent 50 military observers to watch the food’s distribution.
Operation Provide Relief began in August 1992, when US President George H. W. Bush announced that US military transports would support the multinational UN relief effort in Somalia. Ten C-130s and 400 people were deployed to Mombasa, Kenya, airlifting aid to Somalia’s remote areas and reducing reliance on truck convoys. The C-130s delivered 48,000 tons of food and medical supplies in six months to international humanitarian organisations trying to help Somalia’s more than three million starving people.
When this proved inadequate to stop the massive death and displacement of the Somali people (500,000 dead and 1.5 million refugees or displaced), the US launched a major coalition operation to assist and protect humanitarian activities in December 1992. This operation called Operation Restore Hope, saw the US assuming the unified command in accordance with Resolution 794. The US Marine Corps landed the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit MEUSOC in Mogadishu with elements of 2nd Battalion 9th Marines and 3rd Battalion 11th Marines, secured nearly one-third of the city, the port, and airport facilities within two weeks, with the intent to facilitate airlifted humanitarian supplies. Elements of the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines HMLA-369 (Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 of Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Camp Pendleton); 9th Marines; quickly secured routes to Baidoa, Balidogle and Kismayo, then were reinforced by the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division.
On 03 March 1993, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali submitted to the UN Security Council his recommendations for effecting the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II. He indicated that since Resolution 794’s adoption in December 1992, UNITAF’s presence and operations had created a positive impact on Somalia’s security situation and on the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance (UNITAF deployed 37,000 personnel over forty percent of southern and central Somalia). There was still no effective government, police, or national army, resulting in serious security threats to UN personnel. To that end, the Security Council authorised UNOSOM II to establish a secure environment throughout Somalia, to achieve national reconciliation so as to create a democratic state.
At the Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia, held on 15 March 1993, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, all fifteen Somali parties agreed to the terms set out to restore peace and democracy. Within a month or so, however, by May 1993, it became clear that, although a signatory to the March Agreement, Mohammed Farrah Aidid’s faction would not cooperate in the Agreement’s implementation.
Aidid began to broadcast anti-UN propaganda on Radio Mogadishu after believing that the UN was purposefully marginalising him in an attempt to “rebuild Somalia.” Lieutenant General Çevik Bir ordered the radio station shut down, in an attempt to quash the beginning of what could turn into a rebellion. Civilian spies throughout UNOSOM II’s headquarters likely led to the uncovering of the UN’s plan. On 05 June 1993, Aidid ordered SNA militia to attack a Pakistani force that had been tasked with the inspection of an arms cache located at the radio station, possibly out of fear that this was a task force sent to shut down the broadcast. The result was 24 dead and 57 wounded Pakistani troops, as well as 1 wounded Italian and 3 wounded American soldiers. On 06 June 1993, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 837, for the arrest and prosecution of the persons responsible for the death and wounding of the peacekeepers.
On 12 June, US troops started attacking targets in Mogadishu in hopes of finding Aidid, a campaign which lasted until 16 June. On 17 June, a $25,000 warrant was issued by Admiral Jonathan Howe for information leading to Aidid’s arrest, but he was never captured. Howe also requested a rescue force after the Pakistanis’ deaths.
Bloody Monday Attack
On 12 July 1993, a US-led operation led to the event Somalis call Bloody Monday. As part of the campaign to find or kill Aidid, American forces attacked a house in Mogadishu after being tipped off by an undercover operative that Aidid would be there at a meeting with tribal leaders. At 10:18 in the morning, American Cobra attack helicopters launched TOW Missiles and 20 mm calibre cannon fire at the structure. The inhabitants of the house, and their reason for being there, is disputed. American forces claimed that it was a meeting of a war council, and that their mission was a success. According to American war correspondent Scott Peterson, a group of Somali elders had gathered at a house to discuss a way to make peace to end the violence between Somali militias and the UN forces. The gathering had been publicized in Somali newspapers the day before the attack as a peace gathering. Regardless of the true purpose of the meeting, the attack was perceived as a very aggressive action by a country not actively at war with Somalia, and caused most Somalis to lose trust in the United States.
According to a Somali survivor, American ground troops killed 15 survivors at close range with pistols, a charge American commanders deny. The official American account was that ground troops spent less than 10 minutes at the site, with the mission of assessing the outcome of the aerial strike. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, there were 54 dead Somalis and 161 wounded; Somali forces claim more casualties, American forces claim less casualties. Aidid was not among the casualties and may not have been present.
The operation would lead to the deaths of four journalists – Dan Eldon, Hos Maina, Hansi Kraus, and Anthony Macharia – who were killed by angry mobs when they arrived to cover the incident, which presaged the Battle of Mogadishu. Human Rights Watch declared that the attack “looked like mass murder.” Some believe that this American attack was a turning point in unifying Somalis against US efforts in Somalia, including former moderates and those opposed to the Habar Gidir.
Task Force Ranger
On 08 August 1993, Aidid’s militia detonated a remote controlled bomb against a US military vehicle, killing four soldiers. Two weeks later another bomb injured seven more. In response, US President Bill Clinton approved the proposal to deploy a special task force composed of elite special forces units, including 400 US Army Rangers and Delta Force operators.
On 22 August 1993, the unit deployed to Somalia under the command of Major General William F. Garrison, commander of the special multi-disciplinary Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at the time.
The force consisted of:
- B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment under the command of Captain Michael D. Steele;
- C Squadron, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Gary L. Harrell.
- A deployment package of 16 helicopters and personnel from the 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR), which included MH-60 Black Hawks and AH/MH-6 Little Birds.
- Navy SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU).
- Air Force Pararescuemen and Combat Controllers from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.
Prior Black Hawk Shot Down
On 25 September 1993, a week before the Battle, Aidid supporters used an RPG to shoot down a Black Hawk near the New Port in Mogadishu. It had been assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and all three crew members were killed. It was the first time a helicopter had been downed in Mogadishu, and the event was a huge psychological victory for the SNA.
Order of Battle
US and UNOSOM
Units involved in the battle:
- Task Force Ranger, including:
- C Squadron, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) – aka Delta Force[.
- Bravo Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
- 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (The Night Stalkers) with MH-6J and AH-6 “Little Birds” and MH-60 A/L Black Hawks.
- Combat Controllers and Pararescuemen from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.
- Navy SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU).
- CVN-72 USS Abraham Lincoln & Carrier Air Wing 11.
- Amphibious Squadron 5 (USS New Orleans LPH-11, USS Denver LPD-9, USS Comstock LSD-45, USS Cayuga LST-1186).
- BLT 1/9 (Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion/ 9th Marines/ 13th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit/ USS New Orleans LPH-11 ARG (Amphibious Ready Group).
- Task Force-10th Mountain Division, including:
- 2nd Battalion “Attack”, 25th Aviation Regiment.
- 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment.
- 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment.
- 3rd platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment.
- 41st Engineer Battalion, 10th Mountain Division.
- 15th Battalion, of the Frontier Force Regiment, Pakistan Army.
- 19th Lancers of the Pakistan Army.
- 10th Battalion, of the Baloch Regiment of Pakistan Army.
- 977th Military Police Company.
- United Nations Operation in Somalia II:
- 19th Battalion, Royal Malay Regiment of the Malaysian Army.
- 11th Regiment, Grup Gerak Khas of the Malaysian Army (few GGK operators during rescue the Super 6-1 crews).
- 7th Battalion, Frontier Force Regiment of the Pakistan Army.
The size and organizational structure of the Somali militia forces involved in the battle are not known in detail. In all, between 2,000-4,000 regular faction members are believed to have participated, almost all of whom belonged to Aidid’s Somali National Alliance. They drew largely from his Habar Gidir Hawiye clan, who battled US troops starting 12 July 1993.
The Somali National Alliance (SNA) was formed 14 August 1992. It began as the United Somali Congress (USC) under Aidid’s leadership. At the time of Operation Gothic Serpent, the SNA was composed of Col. Omar Gess’ Somali Patriotic Movement, the Somali Democratic Movement, the combined Digil and Mirifleh clans, the Habr Gedir of the United Somali Congress headed by Aidid, and the newly established Southern Somali National Movement.
After formation, the SNA immediately staged an assault against the militia of the Hawadle Hawiye clan, who controlled the Mogadishu port area. As a result, the Hawadle Hawiye were pushed out of the area, and Aidid’s forces took control.
On 03 October 1993, special operations forces consisting of Bravo Company 3rd Battalion, the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and the 160th Aviation Battalion, attempted to capture Aidid’s foreign minister, Omar Salad Elmim and his top political advisor, Mohamed Hassan Awale.
The plan was that Delta operators would assault the target building using MH-6 Little Bird helicopters, and secure the targets inside the building. Four Ranger chalks under Captain Michael D. Steele’s command would fast-rope down from hovering MH-60L Black Hawks. Rangers would create a four-corner defensive perimeter around the target building to isolate it and ensure that no enemy could get in or out.
A column of nine HMMWVs (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) and three M939 five-ton trucks under Lieutenant Colonel Danny McKnight’s command would arrive at the building to take the entire assault team and their prisoners back to base. The entire operation was estimated to take no longer than 30 minutes.
The ground-extraction convoy was supposed to reach the captive targets a few minutes after the operation’s beginning, but it ran into delays. Somali citizens and local militia formed barricades along Mogadishu’s streets with rocks, wreckage, rubbish and burning tires, blocking the convoy from reaching the Rangers and their captives. Aidid militiamen with megaphones were shouting, “Come out and defend your homes!”
At 13:50, Task Force Ranger analysts received intelligence of Salad’s location. The soldiers, vehicle convoys, and helicopters were on high alert stand by until the code word “Irene” was echoed across all the radio channels by command. The code word “Irene” was the word that began the mission and sent the helicopters into the air.
At 15:42, the MH-6 assault Little Birds carrying the Delta operators hit the target, the wave of dust becoming so bad that one was forced to go around again and land out of position. Next, the two Black Hawks carrying the second Delta assault team led by DELTA officer Captain Austin S. Miller came into position and dropped their teams as the four Ranger chalks prepared to rope onto the four corners surrounding the target building. Chalk Four being carried by Black Hawk Super 67, piloted by Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3) Jeff Niklaus, was accidentally put a block north of their intended point. Declining the pilot’s offer to move them back down due to the time it would take to do so, leaving the helicopter too exposed, Chalk Four intended to move down to the planned position, but intense ground fire prevented them from doing so.
The ground convoy arrived ten minutes later near the Olympic Hotel target building (02°03′01.6″N 45°19′28.6″E) and waited for Delta and Rangers to complete their mission. During the operation’s first moments, Private First Class Todd Blackburn fell while fast-roping from Super 67 while it hovered 70 feet (21 m) above the streets. Blackburn suffered numerous head injuries and required evacuation by Sergeant Jeff Struecker’s column of three Humvees. While taking Blackburn back to base, Sergeant Dominick Pilla, assigned to Struecker’s Humvee, was killed instantly when a bullet struck his head. The Humvee column arrived back at base, full of bullet holes and emitting smoke from the damage.
First Black Hawk Down
At about 16:20, one of the Black Hawks, Super 61, piloted by CW3 Cliff “Elvis” Wolcott and CW3 Donovan “Bull” Briley, was shot down by an RPG-7. Both pilots were killed in the resulting crash and two of the crew chiefs, Staff Sergeant Ray Dowdy and Staff Sergeant Charlie Warren, were severely wounded. Staff Sergeant Daniel Busch and Sergeant Jim Smith, both Delta snipers, survived the crash and began defending the site (02°03′08.1″N 45°19′35.2″E).
An MH-6, Star 41, piloted by CW3 Karl Maier and CW5 Keith Jones, landed nearby. Jones left the helicopter and carried Busch to the safety of the helicopter, while Maier provided cover fire from the cockpit repeatedly denying orders to lift off while his co-pilot was not in the Bird. Maier nearly hit Chalk One’s Lieutenant Tom DiTomasso, arriving with Rangers and Delta operators to secure the site. Jones and Maier evacuated Busch and Smith. Busch later died of his injuries, having been shot four times while defending the crash site.
A combat search and rescue (CSAR) team, led by Delta Captain Bill J. Coultrup, Air Force Master Sergeant Scott C. Fales, and Air Force Technical Sergeant Timothy A. Wilkinson, were able to fast rope down to the Super 61 crash site despite an RPG hit that crippled their helicopter, Super 68, piloted by CW3 Dan Jollota and Maj. Herb Rodriguez. Despite the damage, Super 68 did make it back to base. The CSAR team found both the pilots dead and two wounded inside the crashed helicopter. Under intense fire, the team moved the wounded men to a nearby collection point, where they built a makeshift shelter using kevlar armour plates salvaged from Super 61’s wreckage.
Communications were confused between the ground convoy and the assault team. The assault team and the ground convoy waited for 20 minutes to receive their orders to move out. Both units were under the mistaken impression that they were to be first contacted by the other.
Second Black Hawk Down
During the wait, a second Black Hawk helicopter, callsign Super 64 and piloted by Michael Durant, was shot down by an RPG-7 at around 16:40. Most of the assault team went to the first crash site for a rescue operation. Upon reaching the first crash site, about 90 Rangers and Delta Force operators found themselves under heavy fire. Despite air support, the assault team was effectively trapped for the night. With a growing number of wounded needing shelter, they occupied several nearby houses and confined the occupants for the battle’s duration.
At the second crash site (02°02′49.7″N 45°19′35.1″E), two Delta snipers, Master Sergeant (MSG) Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class (SFC) Randy Shughart, were inserted by Super 62, piloted by Mike Goffena and Jim Yacone. Their first two requests to be inserted were denied, but they were finally granted permission after their third request. They inflicted heavy casualties on the approaching Somali mob. Super 62 had kept up their fire support for Gordon and Shughart, but an RPG struck Super 62. Despite the damage, Super 62 managed to land at New Port safely.
When Gordon was eventually killed, Shughart picked up Gordon’s CAR-15 and gave it to Durant. Shughart went back around the helicopter’s nose and held off the mob for about 10 more minutes before he was killed. The Somalis then overran the crash site and killed all but Durant. He was nearly beaten to death, but was saved when members of Aidid’s militia came to take him prisoner. For their actions, MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour, the first awarded since the Vietnam War.
Repeated attempts by the Somalis to mass forces and overrun the American positions in a series of firefights near the first crash site were neutralised by aggressive small arms fire and by strafing runs and rocket attacks from AH-6J Little Bird helicopter gunships of the Nightstalkers, the only air unit equipped and trained for night fighting.
Relief Convoy Arrives
A relief convoy with elements from the Task Force 2–14 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, accompanied by Malaysian and Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistani UN forces, arrived at the first crash site at around 02:00. No contingency planning or coordination with UN forces had been arranged prior to the operation; consequently, the recovery of the surrounded American troops was significantly complicated and delayed. Determined to protect all of the rescue convoy’s members, General Garrison made sure that the convoy would roll out in force.
When the convoy finally pushed into the city, it consisted of more than 100 UN vehicles including Malaysian forces’ German-made Condor APCs, four Pakistani tanks (M48s), American HMMWVs and several M939 five-ton flatbed trucks. This two-mile-long column was supported by several other Black Hawks and Cobra assault helicopters stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. Meanwhile, Task Force Ranger’s “Little Birds” continued their defence of Super 61’s downed crew and rescuers. The American assault force sustained heavy casualties, including several killed, and a Malaysian soldier died when an RPG hit his Condor vehicle. Seven Malaysians and two Pakistanis were wounded.
The battle was over by 06:30 on Monday, 04 October. US forces were finally evacuated to the UN base by the armoured convoy. While leaving the crash site, a group of Rangers and Delta operators led by Staff Sergeant John R. Dycus realised that there was no room left in the vehicles for them and were forced to depart the city on foot to a rendezvous point on National Street. This has been commonly referred to as the “Mogadishu Mile”.
In all, 19 US soldiers were killed in action during the battle or shortly after, and another 73 were wounded in action. The Malaysian forces lost one soldier and had seven injured, while the Pakistanis also lost one soldier and suffered two injured. Somali casualties were heavy, with estimates of fatalities ranging from 315 to over 2,000 combatants. The Somali casualties were a mixture of militiamen and local civilians. Somali civilians suffered heavy casualties due to the dense urban character of that portion of Mogadishu.
On 06 October 1993, a mortar round fell on the US compound, injuring 12 people and killing Delta Sergeant First Class Matthew L. Rierson, the 19th US soldier killed in the battle. That same day, a team on special mission Super 64 incurred two wounded. Two weeks after the battle, General Garrison officially accepted responsibility. In a handwritten letter to President Clinton, Garrison took full responsibility for the battle’s outcome. He wrote that Task Force Ranger had adequate intelligence for the mission and that their objective – capturing targets of value – was met.
After the battle, the bodies of several of the conflict’s US casualties (Black Hawk Super 64’s crewmembers and their defenders, Delta Force soldiers MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart) were dragged through Mogadishu’s streets by crowds of local civilians and SNA forces.
Through negotiation and threats to the Habar Gidir clan leaders by the US Special Envoy for Somalia, Robert B. Oakley, all the bodies were eventually recovered. The bodies were returned in poor condition, one with a severed head. Michael Durant was released after 11 days of captivity. On the beach near the base, a memorial was held for those who were killed in combat.
Known Casualties and Losses
The exact number of Somali casualties is unknown, but estimates range from several hundred to a thousand militiamen and others killed, with injuries to another 3,000-4,000. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that 200 Somali civilians were killed and several hundred wounded in the fighting, with reports that some civilians attacked the Americans. The book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War estimates more than 700 Somali militiamen dead and more than 1,000 wounded, but the Somali National Alliance in a Frontline documentary on American television acknowledged only 133 killed in the whole battle. The Somali casualties were reported in The Washington Post as 312 killed and 814 wounded. The Pentagon initially reported five American soldiers were killed, but the toll was actually 18 American soldiers dead and 73 wounded. Two days later, a 19th soldier, Delta operator SFC Matt Rierson, was killed in a mortar attack. Among UN forces, one Malaysian and one Pakistani died; seven Malaysians and two Pakistanis were wounded. At the time the battle was the bloodiest involving US troops since the Vietnam War, and it remained so until the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004.
One Pakistani soldier was killed and 10 disappeared during the rescue attempt and assault. Tanks of 7 Lancer Regiment and 19th Lancers were used for the rescue. Italian General Loi said Italian troops had picked up 30 of the wounded Pakistani soldiers. The city’s two main hospitals reported that 23 Somalis had been killed and that more than 100 had been wounded.
Lance Corporal Mat Aznan Awang was a 33-year-old soldier of the 19th Battalion, Royal Malay Regiment of the Malaysian Army (posthumously promoted to Corporal). Driving a Malaysian Condor armoured personnel carrier, he was killed when his vehicle was hit by an RPG in the early hours of 04 October. Corporal Mat Aznan Awang was awarded the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa medal (Gallant Warrior/Warrior of Extreme Valour).
Ambassador Robert B. Oakley, the US special representative to Somalia, is quoted as saying:
“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 almost any battle you would find.”
Reliable estimates place the number of Somali insurgents killed at between 800 and as many as 1,000 with perhaps another 4,000 wounded. Somali militants claimed a much lower casualty rate. Aidid himself claimed that only 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, although he gave no numbers for deaths of civilians, many of whom were armed.
In a national security policy review session held in the White House on 06 October 1993, US President Bill Clinton directed the Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral David E. Jeremiah, to stop all actions by US forces against Aidid except those required in self-defence. He reappointed Ambassador Robert B. Oakley as special envoy to Somalia in an attempt to broker a peace settlement and then announced that all US forces would withdraw from Somalia no later than 31 March 1994. On 15 December 1993, US Secretary of Defence Les Aspin stepped down, taking much of the blame for his decision to refuse requests for tanks and armoured vehicles in support of the mission. Garrison would write, however, that Aspin was not to blame for the events in Mogadishu. It has also since been noted that the equipment may not have arrived in time to make a difference. A few hundred US Marines remained offshore to assist with any non-combatant evacuation mission that might occur regarding the 1,000-plus US civilians and military advisers remaining as part of the US liaison mission. The Ready Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division, 1-64 Armor, composed 1,300 troops of Task Force Rogue, including the bulk of 1-64 Armor and Infantry troops from her sister battalion 3-15 Infantry. This was the first time M-1 Abrams tanks were delivered by air, using the C-5 Galaxies, which delivered 18 M-1 tanks and 44 Bradley infantry vehicles, while the balance of Task Force Rogues equipment and vehicles were delivered via a roll-on/roll-off ship sent from Fort Stewart (Garden City), Georgia, to Mogadishu to provide armoured support for US forces.
On 04 February 1994, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 897, which set a process for completing the UNOSOM II mission by March 1995, with the withdrawal of UN troops from Somalia at that time. In August 1994, the UN requested that the US lead a coalition to aid in the final withdrawal of the UNOSOM II forces from Somalia. On 16 December 1994, Operation United Shield was approved by President Clinton and launched on 14 January 1995. On 7 February 1995, the Operation United Shield multi-national fleet arrived and began the withdrawal of UNOSOM II’s forces. On 06 March 1995, all of the remaining UN troops were withdrawn, ending UNOSOM II.
Policy Changes and Political Implications
The United Nation’s three consecutive humanitarian missions in Somalia (UNOSOM I 1992, UNITAF 1992–1993, UNISOM II 1993-1995) were seen by many as a failure, and the evolving civil war that began in 1986 continues as of 2020. The Clinton administration in particular endured considerable criticism for the operation’s outcome. The main elements of the criticism surround: the administration’s decision to leave the region before completing the operation’s humanitarian and security objectives; the perceived failure to recognize the threat al-Qaeda elements posed in the region; and the threat against US security interests at home. Critics claim that Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda provided support and training to Mohammed Farrah Aidid’s forces. Osama bin Laden even denigrated the administration’s decision to prematurely depart the region, stating that it displayed “the weakness, feebleness and cowardliness of the US soldier”.
The loss of US military personnel during the Battle of Mogadishu and television images of American soldiers being dragged through the streets by Somalis evoked public outcry. The Clinton administration responded by scaling down US humanitarian efforts in the region.
On 26 September 2006, in an interview on Fox News with Chris Wallace, former President Bill Clinton gave his version of events surrounding the mission in Somalia. Clinton defended his exit strategy for US forces and denied that the departure was premature. He said he had resisted calls from conservative Republicans for an immediate departure: “…[Conservative Republicans] were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 the next day after we were involved in ‘Black Hawk Down,’ and I refused to do it and stayed six months and had an orderly transfer to the United Nations.”
Clinton’s remarks would suggest the US was not deterred from pursuing their humanitarian goals because of the loss of US forces during the battle. In the same interview, he stated that, at the time, there was “not a living soul in the world who thought that Osama bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk down or was paying any attention to it or even knew al-Qaeda was a growing concern in October of ’93”, and that the mission was strictly humanitarian.
Fear of a repeat of the events in Somalia shaped US policy in subsequent years, with many commentators identifying the Battle of Mogadishu’s graphic consequences as the key reason behind the US’s failure to intervene in later conflicts such as the Rwandan genocide of 1994. According to the US’s former deputy special envoy to Somalia, Walter Clarke: “The ghosts of Somalia continue to haunt US policy. Our lack of response in Rwanda was a fear of getting involved in something like a Somalia all over again.” Likewise, during the Iraq War when four American contractors were killed in the city of Fallujah, then dragged through the streets and desecrated by an angry mob, direct comparisons by the American media to the Battle of Mogadishu led to the First Battle of Fallujah.
Links with Al-Qaeda
Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organisation has been alleged to have been involved in the training and funding of Aidid’s men. In his book Holy War, Inc. (2001), CNN reporter Peter Bergen interviewed bin Laden, who affirmed these allegations. According to Bergen, bin Laden asserted that fighters affiliated with his group were involved in killing US troops in Somalia in 1993, a claim he had made earlier to the Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi. The al-Qaeda fighters in Somalia are rumoured to have included the organization’s military chief, Mohammed Atef, later killed by US forces in Afghanistan. Another al-Qaeda operative who was present at the battle was Zachariah al-Tunisi, who allegedly fired an RPG that downed one of the Black Hawk helicopters; he was later killed by an airstrike in Afghanistan in November 2001.
Aidid’s men received some expert guidance in shooting down helicopters from fundamentalist Islamic soldiers, most likely al-Qaeda, who had experience fighting Russian helicopters during the Soviet-Afghan War. A document recovered from al-Qaeda operative Wadih el-Hage’s computer “made a tentative link between al-Qaeda and the killing of American servicemen in Somalia,” and were used to indict bin Laden in June 1998. Al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl also claimed that the group had trained the men responsible for shooting down the US helicopters.
Four and a half years after the Battle of Mogadishu, in an interview in May 1998, bin Laden disparaged the withdrawal of US troops from Somalia. While he had previously claimed responsibility for the ambush, bin Laden denied having orchestrated the attack on the US soldiers in Mogadishu but expressed delight at their deaths in battle against Somali fighters.
In a 2011 interview, Moktar Ali Zubeyr, the leader of the Somali militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab, said that three al-Qaeda leaders were present during the battle of Mogadishu. Zubeyr named Yusef al-Ayeri, Saif al-Adel, and Sheikh Abu al Hasan al-Sa’idi as providing help through training or participating in the battle themselves.
In 1999, writer Mark Bowden published the book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, which chronicles the events that surrounded the battle. The book was based on his series of columns for The Philadelphia Inquirer about the battle and the men who fought.
Falcon Brigade: Combat and Command in Somalia and Haiti, by Lawrence E. Casper (Colonel USA Retired), published in 2001 by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. Boulder, Colorado and London, England. Casper was the 10th Mountain Division’s Falcon Brigade and QRF Commander during the TF Ranger rescue effort. Eleven months later, Falcon Brigade, under Casper’s leadership, launched Army forces from the Navy aircraft carrier Eisenhower onto the shores of Haiti in an operation to reinstate Haitian President Aristide.
Black Hawk pilot Michael Durant told his story of being shot down and captured by a mob of Somalis in his 2003 book In the Company of Heroes.
In 2011, Staff Sergeant Keni Thomas, a US Army Ranger recounted the combat experience in a memoir titled Get It On!: What It Means to Lead the Way.
Howard E. Wasdin’s SEAL Team Six (2011) includes a section about his time in Mogadishu including the Pasha CIA safe house and multiple operations including the Battle of Mogadishu where he was severely wounded.
Lieutenant Colonel Michael Whetstone, Company Commander of Charlie Company 2-14 Infantry, published his memoirs of the heroic rescue operation of Task Force Ranger in his book Madness in Mogadishu (2013).
Bowden’s book has been adapted into the film Black Hawk Down (2001), produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Ridley Scott. Like the book, the film describes events surrounding the operation, but there are differences between the book and the film, such as Rangers marking targets at night by throwing strobe lights at them, when in reality the Rangers marked their own positions and close air support targeted everything else.
Upcoming Malaysian film Bakara, directed by Adrian Teh retells the story of Malaysian contingent of UNOSOM II involvement during the rescue operation in the battle.
The American series PBS Frontline aired a documentary titled “Ambush in Mogadishu” in 1998.
The True Story of Black Hawk Down (2003) is a TV documentary which premièred on The History Channel. It was directed by David Keane.
The American Heroes Channel television series, Black Ops, aired an episode titled “The Real Black Hawk Down” in June 2014.
The National Geographic Channel television series, No Man Left Behind, aired an episode titled “The Real Black Hawk Down” on 28 June 2016.
The Seconds from Disaster television series spotlighted the raid and rescue mission in the Season 7 episode “Chopper Down” aired in February 2018.
Rangers Return in 2013
In March 2013, two survivors from Task Force Ranger returned to Mogadishu with a film crew to shoot a short film, Return to Mogadishu: Remembering Black Hawk Down, which debuted in October 2013 on the 20th anniversary of the battle. Author Jeff Struecker and country singer-songwriter Keni Thomas relived the battle as they drove through the Bakaara Market in armored vehicles and visited the Wolcott crash site.
Super 61 Returns to US
In August 2013, remains of Super 61, consisting of the mostly intact main rotor and parts of the nose section, were extracted from the crash site and returned to the United States due to the efforts of David Snelson and Alisha Ryu, and are on display at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum at Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, North Carolina. The exhibit features immersive dioramas and artefacts from the battle including the wreckage of Super 61, the first Black Hawk helicopter shot down during the battle, and Super 64.
As of October 2018, a fully restored Super 68 is on display at the Army Aviation Museum in Fort Rucker, Alabama.