Relief work had been halted overnight following the death of the Pakistanis. UN [read US] commanders tipped off aid agencies a “massive strike” would be carried out sometime in the next two days, imploring them to move into the US Embassy compound.
US closed Somali airspace. The first Spectre gunships began circling over Mogadishu on 12 June targeting Radio Mogadishu and Aidid’s weapons sites. On 13 June the Spectre gunships hit Ato’s weapons sites. 14 June attack helicopters attacked and destroyed a rocket launcher in an open space. Missiles missed and spun away to hit a tea stall. 17 June Spectre gunships and attack helicopters hit Aidid’s house, the adjacent hospital was partially demolished, killing 100 patients. The compound was empty. SRSG Howe claimed, “a tremendous victory, and the use of hospitals as an armed fortress for armed combatants is a violation of human rights.” Howe then issued an arrest warrant for Aidid, upon hearing he was long absent from his compound.
US PSYOPs went into Hollywood mode. Wanted posters for Aidid were posted outside the UN compound and helicopters dumped posters over Mogadishu. Designed to entice Somali “citizens” to turn in Aidid, the message read “WANTED, reward US,25,000 to capture the warlord brought to UN, Gate 8.”
Somalis countered within 1 hour, “Capture of Animal Howe – US$1 million.” Resultingly, no UN or US troops patrolled the streets. From his time in the Navy and as deputy to George Bush, Howe was aware that a useful tool was Delta Force and on 9 June the Defence Secretary received a request from Howe for Delta Force. Initially rejected, the Clinton Administration requested the British to send a sabre squadron of SAS. The SAS sent a representative and the wry assessment was, “Rather you than us,” finding the US Intel team disillusioned with the lack of intelligence for a totally inappropriate mission.
On 26 August the Taskforce Rangers, with a Delta Force contingent quietly embedded arrived. Delta Force, led by Maj Gen William Garrison disguised as Lt. Colonel.
Keystone Cops Make Themselves Known
The first indication that Delta Force had arrived came in the early hours of 30 August and was spectacular and public. Commandos, in black coveralls, roped from helicopters onto the roof of the UN Development Programme, that also had a UN flag spread across the roof. Five Somali [UN] guards, three foreign staff and an elderly female Egyptian, Head of UNDP programme, were arrested, hog-tied and taken to the US Embassy. Work not finished, next door was French aid agency Action International Contre Le Faim [AICF]. Delta Force promptly demolished the walls with charges, destroyed Codan radio equipment, finding no one present began to realise their blunder.
Damage control immediately began, lots of doublespeak from US and UN officials. The White House claimed such search missions were, “UN operations.” UN Spokesman Maj. Stockwell called it a “textbook example of how these operations should go”. SRSG Howe stated, “The people [in UNDP building] may have been scared, but nobody was hurt, only frightened.” Chipping in, Boutros Ghali, pressed to explain the US “cock up” stated, “What cock up? Every day we have operations of this type.”
The compounds were hit courtesy of fake information they were Aidid’s deep-cover hideouts. Having been under surveillance for two weeks, suspicious activity included the mysterious fact that barrels of fuel were used up [by UN vehicles], and then regularly replaced. Delta commander Garrison had called the UN Intelligence cell asking for “your number one target” and got given the UNDP house.
On 2nd September, Delta Force encircled another two aid agency compounds, MSF and World Concern. This time, seeing the agency signboards next to the main gate, literally knocked on both front doors, then asked for permission to search the premises. MSF insisted, after the “search”, and took Task Force/Delta commanders on an extensive tour of Mogadishu to point out all relief agencies present.
Meanwhile, Aidid’s guerilla attacks increased, so Task Force Rangers and Delta detachments persevered. The next raid on 7th September under the purpose of capturing Aidid was on the house of the former Chief of Police, yielded another embarrassing catch. Chief Ahmed Jamma Musa was detained for days before a civilian intelligence officer recognised him as the top candidate to head the new police force. To add insult to injury two days after his release he was wounded during another routine “weapons search”. When asked why his house was raided, he replied, “I share my house with a retired police colonel whose name is Aidid Farah, so I suspect they assumed Farah Aidid was living there.”
On 14 September in northern Mogadishu [the other side of the former Green line and territory of Ali Mahdi, therefore the last place Aidid would hide], Task Force Ranger/Delta squad swore they saw Aidid depart from the Italian Embassy in a grey Toyota Land Cruiser. One hour later eyewitnesses verified their sighting, so Rangers and Delta swooped in from helicopters on a nearby house and seized the Somali elders inside. They seized the head of the UN’s Police Committee, Ahmed Jilao. He had been chief of former President Barre’s NSS, and former Mayor of Mogadishu and a US CIA asset. When it became abundantly clear two days later who was arrested, a chastened delegation of US officials visited Ali Mahdi and apologised. They promised to pay damages. In the intervening time, looters had moved into the vacant house worth US$2,000, stripped it bare, so the claim reached US$250,000 and was paid. SRSG Howe, who approved the wanted poster and begged for Delta Force stated, “Our problems are over, I’ve got more money to make the reward for Aidid US$100,000.”
12 July 1993 – Bloody Monday
On 11 July SRSG Howe had requested and met a group of senior Habr Gedir elders over the war between the UN and Aidid’s Habr Gedir clan, and Howe asked them to look for a peaceful way out. Aidid did not approve of the meeting because his role as clan leader was questioned. It was agreed the elders would meet the next day [12 July] and also quite probably make a separate appeal to the UN to isolate Aidid. The meeting, timing and location was publicised in Somali news as a peace gathering, so wasn’t secret, at the minimum to Somalis.
On the morning of 12 July, the elders, religious leaders, former judges, professors, the Habr Gedir clan’s most senior leader in his 90s, younger men, women and family children convened at the offices of Abdi Hassan Awale “Qaybdiid” [Aidid’s warlord Interior Minister, the same man who’d previously received the UN notice of the UN inspection of Radio Mogadishu].
Aidid had been forewarned by his intelligence that a spy working for the UN had infiltrated the group. Aidid had unsuccessfully tried to warn Qaybdiid on the evening of the 11th. Qaybdiid was informed before the meeting on the 12th Aidid would attend. At 10.15am, one man stepped outside the front door and walked across the compound to the main gate. He was wearing pre-arranged clothes as the signal – a suicide mission because he would later be killed.
Within seconds of the man’s emergence from the house, a US attack helicopter fired the first TOW missile. “Operation Michigan” was under way. This was followed by more TOW missiles and 20mm cannon. US ground forces then swept the building killing most  survivors, two played dead courtesy of severe injuries but survived. One, Omar Hassan Ganay shouted, “I am the agent, I am the agent,” and was extracted. Two hundred Somalis nearby was also killed.
For Somalis, this meant an act of war, there was no more middle ground to make peace. Somalis called this day Bloody Monday. The few journalists that made it to the scene were embargoed from filing stories of what surmounted to a war crime even though there were many nearby witnesses, there were no apologies.
SRSG Howe vigorously defended the destruction of a “very key terrorist planning cell” and claimed that no civilians died except for four foreign journalists [attacked by gathering crowd after the attack]. The fact was the meeting had been called by Somalis to deliberate over the next steps following the meeting between SRSG Howe and Habr Gedir elders.
Howe continued to spin,
“I think appeasement is the wrong strategy when terrorism continues. There is a time you must stand up and use strength. I hope we can minimise the use of force, and that we will always use it responsibly. We knew what we were hitting, it was well planned.”
The Somalis fully understood the killing was a deliberate sign of UN resolve, an attempt to decapitate the head of the Habr Gedir clan. In the aftermath, aid agencies, led as usual by MSF, charged that attacks on hospitals and a public elders meeting requested by the UN were in total breach of Geneva Conventions. Targeting Howe aid agencies [MSF the most vocal again] that, “any such attacks must offer a ‘definite military advantage’ and is illegal if the harm is’ excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated” according to the 1977 Additional Protocol 1 [which while not ratifying the whole Protocol is agreed by the US]. Aid officials made clear they considered UN forces to be bound by the Geneva Conventions as a definition of the Laws of War.
For Gen Montgomery [Cdr US forces and Deputy UN Force Commander] the attack was,
“Legitimate because they were all bad guys. This was a Council of War. This was where they were making decisions to blow up [Americans] and carry out ambushes. They weren’t innocents, they were people who actively participated in action against the UN. So, they were soldiers, on militia operations, there were no civilians there.”
The disproportionate use of force, violation of human rights and humanitarian law resulted in overwhelming civilian casualties at a time when the U.N. and U.S. were not at war with Somalia. The Abdi “Qaybdiid” house attack became widely regarded as a symbol of the U.N./U.S. loss of direction in Somalia, from humanitarian champion to mass murderer bending the rules as they saw fit.
One of the journalists, Dan Eldon, 22, subsequently via his mother had his journals released: The Journey Is The Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon
Hollywood sugar-coated his story in the 2016 movie The Journey Is The Destination of which the last 30 minutes of the movie is accurate in relation to events as above
© AW Kamau 2023