Battle of Mogadishu

The Battle of Mogadishu or for Somalis Ma-alinti Rangers (The Day of the Rangers) was a battle that was part of Operation Gothic Serpent that was fought on October 3 and 4, 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia, by forces of the United States (by order of U.S. President Bill Clinton) supported by UNOSOM II against Somali militia fighters loyal to warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

Task Force Ranger, which consisted of an assault force made up of Army Delta Force (some US Navy SEALs) and Ranger The Battle of Mogadishuteams, an air element provided by the 160th SOAR, and members of the Air Force Pararescue/Air Force Combat Controllers, executed an operation which involved traveling from their compound on the outskirts of the city to capture leaders of Aidid's militia. The assault force was composed of nineteen aircraft, twelve vehicles and 160 men. During the operation, two U.S. MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by rocket propelled grenades, and three others were damaged. Some of the soldiers were able to evacuate wounded back to the compound, but others were trapped at the crash sites and cut off. An urban battle ensued throughout the night. Early the next morning, a joint task force was sent to rescue the trapped troops. It contained soldiers from Pakistan, Malaysia, and U.S. soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division. They assembled some 100 vehicles, including Pakistani tanks and Malaysian Condor armored personnel carriers, and were supported by US A/MH-6 Little Bird, AH-1 Cobra and MH-60 helicopters. This task force reached the first crash site and led the trapped soldiers out. The second crash site was overrun; the lone surviving American was taken prisoner, but later released.

Somali casualty figures are unknown, but American estimates are that between 1,000 and 1,500 Somali militiamen and civilians lost their lives in the battle, with injuries to another 3,000-4,000. The book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War estimates more than 700 Somali militiamen dead, and more than one thousand wounded. Eighteen American soldiers died and 73 were wounded (another American soldier, Delta team leader SFC Matt Rierson was killed in a mortar attack two days later). One Malaysian soldier died, and seven were wounded along with two Pakistanis, all part of the UN forces.

Background to the battle

In January 1991, the leader of Somalia, Mohammed Siad Barre, was overthrown by a coalition of opposing clans, called the United Somalia Congress. After this revolution, the coalition divided into two groups. One was led by Ali Mahdi, who became president; and the other, by Mohammed Farah Aidid. In total, there were four opposing groups: the United Somali Congress (USC), Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), and Somali Democratic Movement (SDM), which continued to fight over the domination of Somalia. In June, 1991, a ceasefire was agreed to, which failed to hold. A fifth group, the Somali National Movement (SNM), had already seceded from the northwest portion of Somalia in June. The SNM renamed it the Somaliland Republic, with its leader Abdel-Rahman Ahmed Ali 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 the agriculture of Somalia, which in turn led to starvation in large parts of Somalia. 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 percent 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 United Nations (UN) sent 50 military observers to watch the distribution of the food.

Operation Provide Relief began in August, 1992, when the Bush White House announced that U.S. military transports would support the multinational UN relief effort in Somalia. Ten C-130s and 400 people were deployed to Mombasa, Kenya during Operation Provide Relief, airlifting aid to remote areas in Somalia, to reduce reliance on truck convoys. One member of the 86th Supply Squadron was deployed with the ground support contingent, USAFE's only contribution to the operation. The Air Force C-130s delivered 48,000 tons of food and medical supplies in six months to international humanitarian organizations trying to help the over three million starving people in the country. 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 U.S. in December, 1992, launched a major coalition operation, Operation Restore Hope, to assist and protect humanitarian activities, under which the United States would assume the unified command of the new operation, in accordance with resolution 794 (1992).

Mission shift to nation-building

A key moment in the operation was when the mission shifted from delivering food supplies to nation-building.

On March 3, 1993 the U.N. Secretary-General submitted to the U.N. Security Council his recommendations for effecting the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II. He indicated that since the adoption of Council resolution 794 (1992) in December 1992, the presence and operations of UNITAF had a positive impact on the security situation in Somalia and on the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance (UNITAF deployed some 37,000 personnel over forty percent of southern and central Somalia). However, there was still no effective government, police, or national army with the result of serious security threats to UN personnel. To that end, the U.N. Security Council authorized 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 March 15, 1993 in Addis Ababa, all fifteen Somali parties agreed to the terms set out to restore peace and democracy. Yet by May it became clear that, although signatory to the March Agreement, General Mohammed Farrah Aidid's faction would not cooperate in the Agreement's implementation.

UNOSOM II's attempts to implement disarmament led to violence. On June 5, 1993, twenty-four Pakistani troops in the UN force were killed in heavy fighting in an area of Mogadishu controlled by Aidid. It was widely reported that the bodies of the UN peacekeepers had been mutilated. Some were skinned. Any hope of a peaceful resolution of the conflict quickly vanished. The next day, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 837 calling for the arrest and trial of those responsible for the ambush.

One of the most unfortunate results of this occurred on July 12, 1993 when a United States-led operation was launched on what was believed to be a safe house in Mogadishu where members of Aidid's Habr Gedir clan were supposedly meeting to plan more violence against U.S. and U.N. forces. In reality, elders of the clan, not gunmen, were meeting in the house. According to U.N. officials, the agenda (which was advertised in the local newspaper) was to discuss ways to peacefully resolve the conflict between Aidid and the multinational task force in Somalia, and perhaps even to remove Aidid as leader of the clan.

What eventually took place that day was a 17-minute combat operation in which U.S. Cobra attack helicopters fired 16 TOW missiles and thousands of 20-millimeter cannon rounds into the compound. When the operation was over and the smoke had cleared, more than 50 of the clan elders, the oldest and most respected in their community, were dead[1]. Some in Mogadishu believe that this was a turning point in unifying Somalians against the U.S. and U.N. efforts in Somalia. It would also lead to the deaths of four journalists, Dan Eldon, Hos Maina, Hansi Kraus and Anthony Macharia, who were killed by angry Somali mobs when they arrived to cover the incident. A fifth journalist, Scott Peterson, was injured but was rescued by his driver.


On October 3 1993, Task Force Ranger, a U.S. Special Operations Forces composed mainly of Rangers, Delta Force (1st SFOD-D) operators, and aviation support from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Night Stalkers), attempted to capture Aidid's foreign minister, Omar Salad, and his top political advisor, Mohamed Hassan Awale. The plan was to fast rope from hovering MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, capture the targets, and load them onto a ground convoy for transport back to the U.S. compound. Four Ranger chalks, also inserted by helicopter, were to provide a secure square perimeter on the four corners of the operation's target building.

The ground extraction convoy was supposed to reach the captive targets a few minutes after the beginning of the operation. However, it ran into delays. Somali citizens and local militia formed barricades along the streets of Mogadishu with rocks and burning tires, blocking the convoy from reaching the Rangers and their captives. A five-ton truck, part of the convoy, was struck by a rocket propelled grenade.

Other complications arose. A U.S. Army Ranger was seriously injured during the insertion. PFC Todd Blackburn fell while fast roping from a helicopter hovering 70 feet above the streets. Minutes later, a MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, Super Six One piloted by CWO3 Cliff Wolcott, was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade. There was confusion between the ground convoy and the assault team. The assault team and the ground convoy waited for twenty minutes just out of sight of each other, ready to move, but each under the impression that they were to be first contacted by the other. During the wait, a second Black Hawk helicopter, Super Six Four piloted by CWO3 Michael Durant, was downed. Most of the assault team went to the first crash site for a rescue operation. Upon reaching the site, about 90 Rangers found themselves under siege from heavy militia fire. Despite air support, the Rangers were effectively trapped for the night.

At the second crash site, two Delta Force snipers, Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart and Master Sgt. 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 mob. Both snipers and three of the Black Hawk crewmen were later killed when the site was overrun by Somali militiamen. The Black Hawk's pilot, CW3 Mike 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 were neutralized by strafing and rocket attacks from U.S. aircraft. Reinforcements from the U.S. 10th Mountain Division, aided by Malaysian and Pakistani U.N. forces, arrived in the early morning. No contingency planning or coordination with U.N. forces had been arranged prior to the operation. This lack of planning significantly complicated and delayed the recovery of the surrounded U.S. soldiers.

The battle was over by 4 October at 6:30 AM. American forces were finally evacuated to the U.N. Pakistani base. 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 injuries. Casualties on the Somali side were heavy, with estimates on fatalities from 500 to over 2000 people. The Somali casualties were a mixture of militiamen and local civilians, who were often used as human shields. Two days later, a mortar round fell on the US compound, killing one U.S. soldier, SFC Matt Rierson, and injuring another twelve.

Order of battle

Units involved in the battle:

  • Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
  • Air Force Pararescue
  • 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Airborne)
  • Navy SEALs (attached to the ground convoy)
  • 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)
  • Units involved in the joint Task Force:

  • 19th Royal Malay Regiment
  • U.S. 10th Mountain Division

  • Consequences of the operation

    In a national security policy review session held in the White House on October 6, 1993, President Clinton directed the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral David E. Jeremiah, to stop all actions by U.S. forces against Aidid except those required in self-defense. He also reappointed Ambassador Robert B. Oakley as special envoy to Somalia in an attempt to broker a peace settlement and then announced that all U.S. Forces would withdraw from Somalia no later than March 31, 1994. On December 15, 1993, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin stepped down, taking much of the blame for President Clinton in what was deemed a failed policy. For all intents and purposes, President Clinton was now determined to militarily disengage from Somalia as quickly as possible. Most of the American troops were out of Somalia by March 25, 1994. A few hundred Marines remained offshore to assist with any noncombatant evacuation mission that might occur regarding the 1,000-plus U.S. civilians and military advisers remaining as part of the U.S. liaison mission. All U.S. personnel were finally withdrawn by March 1995.

    The Battle of Mogadishu led to a profound shift in American foreign policy, as the Clinton administration became increasingly reluctant to use military intervention in Third World conflicts, (such as failing to halt the machete-hacking deaths of an estimated 1,000,000 civilians by Hutu militia groups in Rwanda in 1994), and affected America's actions in the Balkans during the later half of the 1990s. President Clinton preferred to use the "air power alone" tactic and hesitated to use U.S. ground troops in fighting Serbian military and para-military ground forces in Bosnia in 1995 and in Kosovo in 1999, out of fear of losing American soldiers in combat, as well as fear of repeating what happened in Mogadishu in 1993.

    "Black Hawk Down"

    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 adapted into the 2001 film Black Hawk Down, directed by Ridley Scott. The film describes the events surrounding the operation and some of the acts of bravery seen on that day. There are obvious differences between the book and the movie, which left out central sections and themes of the book, such as the involvement of civilians in the battle, and de-emphasized the key decision to stay in the area after the initial operation was completed, among others.

    When the film premiered in Somalia in 2002, thousands went to see it. Many people in Mogadishu were angered by the film, calling it propaganda that focused on the 18 Americans killed and 73 wounded in the 18-hour battle, when an estimated 500 to 2,000 Somalis were also killed. When it was learned that the battle has been turned into a game for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2, Somalis said it made a mockery of a real-life tragedy.

    Mike Durant told his own story in his 2003 book In the Company of Heroes.

    Later, in 2005, Matthew Eversmann, leader of chalk 4 during the battle, wrote a book called "The Battle of Mogadishu".

    Links with Al-Qaeda

    There have been allegations that Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda movement was involved in training and funding of Aidid's men. In his 2001 book, Holy War, Inc., CNN reporter Peter Bergen interviewed Bin Laden who affirmed these allegations. Bin Laden confirmed that "Arabs affiliated with his group were involved in killing American troops in Somalia in 1993, a claim he had earlier made to an Arabic newspaper (Al-Quds Al-Arabi)." According to CNN, Al-Qaeda claimed to have supplied a large number of RPGs (Soviet-designed rocket-propelled grenade launchers) to Aidid's fighters and instructed them on a way to modify the RPGs to make them more effective against helicopters.[citation needed]

    Four and one half years after the Battle of Mogadishu, in an interview in May 1998 [2], bin Laden disparaged the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia, after eighteen American soldiers were killed and two of them had their bodies dragged through the streets. Some interpret his statements to mean that these events inspired his elaboration of later large-scale terrorist actions such as the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Khobar Towers, USS Cole, and the 9/11 attacks.