Battle of Mogadishu (1993)

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Battle of Mogadishu
Part of Operation Gothic Serpent
Black Hawk Down Super64 over Mogadishu coast.jpg
Super Six-Four, one of the Black Hawks which would be shot down, above Mogadishu
Date3–4 October 1993 (1993-10-03 – 1993-10-04)
Mogadishu, Somalia
Result Inconclusive, see Aftermath
 United States
Supported by:
 United Nations
Somalia Somali National Alliance
Commanders and leaders

Somalia Mohamed Farrah Aidid
Somalia Sharif Hassan Giumale

Somalia Ali Aden
160 initial forces
3,000 rescue forces
19 aircraft
16 helicopters
9 utility vehicles
3 trucks
Casualties and losses
United States 18 killed
73 wounded
1 captured
2 helicopters destroyed
Malaysia 1 killed
7 wounded
Pakistan 1 killed
2 wounded

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 3–4 October 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, between forces of the United States—supported by UNOSOM II—against the forces of the Somali National Alliance (SNA) and citizens of south Mogadishu. The battle was part of the broader Somali Civil War that had begun in 1991. The United Nations had initially become involved to provide food aid to alleviate starvation in the south of the country, but in the months preceding the battle, had shifted the mission to establishing democracy and restoring a central government.

Seven months after the deployment of U.S. troops to Somalia, on June 5, 1993, the U.N. would suffer the worst loss of its peacekeepers in decades when the Pakistani contingent was attacked while inspecting an SNA weapons storage site. Mohammed Farah Aidid, head of the SNA, would become a fugitive after UNOSOM II blamed his faction for the incident and a hunt for him would begin that would characterize most of the U.N. intervention up until the Battle of Mogadishu. As part of the campaign to capture Aidid, U.S. forces in Mogadishu launched the Abdi House raid, on July 12, 1993, resulting in the death of scores of elders and prominent members of Aidids clan, the Habr Gidr.[7][8] The raid would lead thousands of Somalis from all walks of life in Mogadishu to sympathize with or join the fight against UNOSOM II forces and would lead Aidid and the Somali National Alliance, to deliberately target and kill American personnel for the first time on August 8, 1993, which would in turn lead President Clinton to dispatch the Task Force Ranger to capture Aidid.[9][10][11]

On October 3, 1993, US forces planned to seize two of Aidids high-ranking lieutenants during a meeting deep in the city. The raid was only intended to last an hour, but morphed into an overnight standoff and rescue operation extending into the daylight hours of the next day. While the goal of the operation was achieved, it was a pyrrhic victory and spiraled into the deadly Battle of Mogadishu.[12] As the operation was ongoing, Somali forces shot down three American Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters using RPG-7s,[13] with two crashing deep in hostile territory. A desperate defense of the two downed helicopters began and fighting lasted through the night to defend the survivors of the crashes. In the morning, a UNOSOM II armored convoy fought their way to the besieged soldiers and withdrew, incurring further casualties but eventually rescuing the survivors.[14]

At the time, the battle was the most significant loss of U.S. troops since the Vietnam War.[15] Casualties included 18 dead American soldiers and 73 wounded,[16] with Malaysian forces suffering one death and seven wounded, and Pakistani forces suffering one death and two injuries.[citation needed] Owing to the dense urban character of the battle, estimates of Somali causalities greatly vary - with most estimates set between 315 and 2,000 Somali casualties, including civilians.[14]

In the aftermath, dead American soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by enraged Somalis, which was shown on American television—to public outcry. The battle shifted American foreign policy and led to the eventual pullout of the U.N. mission in 1995. Fear of a repeat of the battle was a reason for American reluctance to get further involved in Somalia and other regions. Some scholars argue that it was a major factor that affected the Clinton administration's decision to not intervene in the Rwandan genocide, and has been commonly referred to as "Somalia Syndrome".[17][18][19][20]


In January 1991, Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown by a coalition of opposing clans, precipitating the Somali Civil War.[21] The Somali National Army concurrently disbanded, and some former soldiers reconstituted as irregular regional forces or joined the clan militias.[22] The main rebel group in the capital Mogadishu was the United Somali Congress (USC),[21] which later divided into two armed factions: one led by Ali Mahdi Muhammad, who later became president; and the other by Mohamed Farrah Aidid which would become known as USC/SNA.[23]

US Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion delivers aid to the village of Maleel (January 1993)

Later that year severe fighting broke out in Mogadishu, which continued in the following months and spread throughout the country, resulting in over 20,000 casualties by the end of the year. The conflict 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.[24] 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.[23]

Operation Provide Relief began in August 1992, when U.S. President George H. W. Bush announced that U.S. military transports would support the multinational U.N. 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 organizations trying to help Somalia's more than three million starving people.[23]

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. launched a major coalition operation to assist and protect humanitarian activities in December 1992. This operation, called Restore Hope, saw the U.S. assuming the unified command in accordance with Resolution 794. The U.S. 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 U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division.[23]

Mission shift[edit]

On 3 March 1993, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali submitted to the U.N. 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 U.N. personnel. To that end, the Security Council authorized UNOSOM II to establish a secure environment throughout Somalia, to achieve national reconciliation so as to create a democratic state.[23][25]

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.[23]

Attack on Pakistanis and hunt for Aidid[edit]

Mogadishu skyline from a UNOSOM convoy

On 5 June 1993 Aidids militia and Somali citizens at Radio Mogadishu attacked the Pakistani force that had been tasked with the inspection of an arms cache located at the station, out of fear that the United Nations forces had been sent to shut down the SNAs broadcast infrastructure. Radio was the most popular medium for news in Somalia, and consequently control of the airwaves was considered vital to both the SNA and UNOSOM. Radio Mogadishu was a highly popular station with the residents of Mogadishu,[26] and rumors that the United Nations was planning to seize or destroy it had been abound for days before 5 June. On May 31, 1993, Aidids political rivals met with the top UNOSOM official and attempted to convince him to take over Radio Mogadishu, a meeting Aidid was made well aware of.[27]

According to the 1994 United Nations Inquiry in the events leading up to the Battle of Mogadishu:

"Opinions differ, even among UNOSOM officials, on whether the weapons inspections of 5 June 1993 was genuine or was merely a cover-up for reconnaissance and subsequent seizure of Radio Mogadishu"[28]

What transpired after would mark a seminal moment in the UNOSOM II operation. The Pakistani forces suffered 24 dead and 57 wounded, as well as 1 wounded Italian and 3 wounded American soldiers.[29]

In response, on 6 June 1993, the outraged U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 837, a call for the arrest and prosecution of the persons responsible for the death and wounding of the peacekeepers. Though the Resolution 837 did not specifically mention or point out Aidid, it would hold the Somali National Alliance responsible. Being chairman of the organization, the hunt for Aidid would characterize most of the U.N. intervention from that point on up until the Battle of Mogadishu.[30][27][26]

Abandoned "Green Line" dividing the warring factions in North and South Mogadishu (January 1993).

A $25,000 warrant was issued by Admiral Jonathan Howe for information leading to Aidid's arrest and UNOSOM forces began attacking targets all over Mogadishu in hopes of finding him.[31]

Bloody Monday raid[edit]

On the morning of 12 July 1993, a strike by the 10th Mountain Division of the QRF in Mogadishu led to an event the Somalis call Bloody Monday otherwise commonly referred to as the Abdi House Attack/Raid.[15] As part of the campaign to capture or kill Aidid following the attack on the Pakistanis, American forces under U.N. authorization attacked the "Abdi House", a villa belonging to Aidid's Interior Minister, Abdi Hasan Awale during a major gathering of prominent Somalis and high ranking clan elders.[32]

At 10:18 in the morning, six American Cobra attack helicopters launched sixteen TOW Missiles and a five minute barrage of 20 mm caliber cannon fire into the summit just as it had begun session.[15][33][34]

A sign at an anti-UNOSOM protest in Mogadishu depicting Bloody Monday

The reason for the meeting, how many people were killed and even the very inhabitants of the house at the time is disputed by American and U.N. officials who claimed that it was the gathering of an S.N.A. war council, and that their mission was a successful military strike.[33][32] According to the Somalis and corroborated by multiple journalists in Mogadishu, such as American war correspondent Scott Peterson, a group of clan elders had gathered at a house to discuss a way to make peace to end the violence between Somali militias and the UN forces.[15][33] The gathering had been publicized in Somali newspapers the day before the attack as a peace gathering.[15][34] Regardless of the gatherings true intent, the attack was perceived as an incredibly aggressive and imperialistic action by a country not at war with Somalia, and is generally considered as the most significant of the many incidents that occurred in the summer and fall of 1993 that caused Somalis to turn against UNOSOM II, especially the U.S. contingent.[33][32][35][36]

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, there were 54 Somalis killed and 161 wounded, though they were only able to survey the dead and injured in the aftermath of the attack at only two of the hospitals in Mogadishu.[37] The Somalis claim 73 were killed including many prominent clan elders, a charge American forces deny and claim far less casualties.[33] Rony Brauman, president of Doctors Without Borders would remark, "For the first time in Somalia there has been a killing under the flag of humanitarianism" and the organization itself would claim that its highest ranking Somali administrator for the city of Merca had been killed.[15][38] Human Rights Watch declared that the attack "looked like mass murder" and an American reporter who was present on the scene claimed that the raid was far deadlier than U.S. and U.N. officials acknowledged.[39][37] The footage recorded of the incident by a Somali cameraman was considered so disturbing that CNN deemed it too violent to show on air to the American public.[40][15]

According to Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, the raid marked a serious escalation of the conflict in Somalia and was "a monumental misjudgment" and "tragic mistake" [32][41] The strike was the first time the U.N. forces in Somalia had specifically targeted people instead of buildings or armaments caches, and marked a major turning point in what had until then been a low-level intensity conflict.[42] In the two and half years since the civil war had come to Mogadishu, Bloody Monday represented the deadliest loss from a single attack the city had seen.[15] To the Habr Gidr, including the former moderates and even other clans that had opposed them during the civil war, the raid marked the beginning of outright war with the American forces, which would culminate in the Battle of Mogadishu three months later.[42][33][43] In the view of U.S. special envoy to Somalia, Robert B. Oakley, "Before July 12th, the US would have been attacked only because of association with the UN, but the US was never singled out until after July 12th".[9]

The events of Bloody Monday would lead Aidid to make the decision to specifically target American soldiers for the first time and would result in the 8 August killings of U.S. troops that would push President Clinton to send in the Delta Force and U.S. Army Rangers to capture him.[44]

The August killings and the deployment of Task Force Ranger[edit]

Soldiers training in desert
Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Somalia, 1993.

In the three weeks following the events of Bloody Monday there was a large lull in UNOSOM operations in Mogadishu, as the city had become incredibly hostile to foreign troops. Then on 8 August, in an area of the city that had been considered "relatively safe to travel in", the S.N.A. allegedly detonated a mine or remote controlled bomb against a U.S. military Humvee, killing four soldiers. A total of only three American soldiers had died in the intervention, marking the 8 August incident as the largest single killing of U.S. troops in the Somalia so far.[45][46]

Group of soldiers
Chalk Four Ranger returns to base after a mission in Somalia, 1993.

Two weeks later another bomb injured seven more.[47] In response, U.S. President Bill Clinton approved the proposal to deploy a special task force composed of elite special forces units, including 400 U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force operators.[48]

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.[49]

The force consisted of:

Prior Black Hawk shot down[edit]

A week before the Battle of Mogadishu, at 2:00 am on 25 September 1993, the S.N.A. used an RPG to shoot down a Black Hawk while it was patrolling for a hostile mortar position over the then abandoned Villa Somalia.[52][53] The pilots were able to fly their burning Black Hawk away from Aideed's turf to the more UNOSOM friendly port of Mogadishu and make a crash landing. The pilot and co-pilot survived, but the three other crew members were killed when the helicopter had been hit. A four hour battle ensued and six peacekeepers were wounded in the fierce shootout to get to the crash site.[53] The attack had not been the first time that September that Somali militia had managed to hit American helicopters with RPG fire, but it was the very first time they had successfully used the tactic to take one down and the event was consequently a major psychological and propaganda victory for the S.N.A.[54][55][56][52]

The chief UNOSOM II spokesman in Mogadishu, U.S. Army Maj. David Stockwell, referred to the downing as "a very lucky shot."[56]

Order of battle[edit]

U.S. and UNOSOM[edit]

Units involved in the battle:

Somali National Alliance and Irregular forces[edit]

The Somali National Alliance (SNA) was formed in June 1992, following a successful joint defence by multiple political factions against an offensive by Somali dictator Siad Barres, in his attempt to retake Mogadishu. During the UNOSOM hunt for Aidid, the SNA was composed multiple political organizations such as, 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.[64][40]

The size and organizational structure of the Somali militia forces involved in the battle are not known in detail. In all, an estimated 1,500–4,000 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 sub-clan of the Hawiye, who began fighting U.S. troops following 12 July 1993.[65][14]

Colonel Sharif Hassan Giumale, Deputy Commander of the SNA High Commission on Defense, was the tactical commander who would directly command the operations of Somali National Alliance troops on the ground during the Battle of Mogadishu.[66] Giumale, a 45 year old former Somali army officer and brigade commander, had attended a Soviet military academy in Odessa and had later gone to Italy for further study.[67] He had gathered significant combat experience serving in the Somali National Army during the Ogaden War with Ethiopia in the late 1970s and following the outbreak of the civil war in 1991.[68][66] Many of the tactics Aidid, Giumale and other subordinate SNA commanders would draw on would be inspired from Chinese and Vietnamese books on guerilla warfare and on advice from mujahedeen veterans, who had just won the Soviet - Afghan War.[66][69]

Marines examine a Somali tank, a US made M47 Patton, that was captured in the raid of a Somali National Alliance weapons cantonment

Despite the substantial array of heavier weaponry in its stockpiles - which included tanks, infrared-guided antiaircraft missile and US-made TOW wire-guided precision antitank missiles, none were utilized during the October 3–4 battle. SNA forces were primarily equipped with light infantry weaponry, like the AK-47 assault rifle. Experienced fighters supplemented the main forces with RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, sniper rifles, mortars, mines and machine guns.[14]

Irregular Somali forces/Volunteers[edit]

During the Oct. 3 - 4 battle SNA forces would also fight alongside hundreds of irregulars or "volunteers" as referred to by U.S. Special Envoy to Somalia Robert B. Oakley, comprised mostly of untrained civilians-turned-combatants, many of whom were women and children who had grievances against UNOSOM troops.[10][66] Human rights abuses and killings by peacekeepers, US military airstrikes in heavily populated neighborhoods, forced evictions for UN compound expansions and the difficulty of receiving legal recourse for wrongs committed by United Nations forces all inflamed the growing animosity of the civilian population of Mogadishu.[70] According to a witness account from American journalist Scott Peterson, in the days preceding the battle, renewed Somali anger against UNOSOM troops had been building following an incident where American mortar crews had fired shells into the dense neighborhoods surrounding their base - resulting in the death of family of 8 and injuring 34, enraging the citizens of South Mogadishu.[71]

Large numbers of Somalis not affiliated with the SNA or Aidid would join the fight on Oct. 3 - 4 spontaneously, as small arms were widely distributed and among the civilian population of Mogadishu to be utilized for self-defense.[14] Professor and Human Rights Activist Alex De Waal, present in Mogadishu during the hunt for Aidid, would later write:

One thing that the US and UN never appreciated was that, as they escalated the level of murder and mayhem, they increased the determination of Somalis to resist and fight back. By the time of the 3 October battle, literally every inhabitant of large areas of Mogadishu considered the UN and US as enemies, and were ready to take up arms against them. People who ten months before had welcomed the US Marines with open arms were now ready to risk death to drive them out.[72]

The irregulars often complicated the situation on the ground for SNA commanders, as they were not controllable and often got in the way by demanding ammunition and burdening the militia's medical evacuation system.[73] A significant element of the volunteers consisted of seniors, women and children who utilized small arms.[66][13] Many volunteers would not actually partake in combat, but instead operated as reconnaissance or runners for SNA troops.[66]

Remarkably, many of the volunteers during the Battle of Mogadishu came from rival clans, to the extent where members of the Abgal and Habar Gidr clans, who had destroyed large swathes of Mogadishu fighting each other only a few months earlier, fought side by side against UNOSOM forces.[15]


Map, with target compound in red
Mogadishu battle sites on 3–4 October 1993.

On 3 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,[74] during a meeting taking place in a building in the immediate vicinity of Olympic Hotel (2°03′04.1″N 45°19′28.9″E / 2.051139°N 45.324694°E / 2.051139; 45.324694).

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.[75]

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.[76]

SNA defence strategy[edit]

The Somali National Alliance had divided South Mogadishu into 18 military sectors, each with its own field officer on alert at all times and a radio network linking them together.[66] The SNA had an excellent grasp of the area around the Olympic Hotel, as it was their home turf, and had created an effective mobilization system that allowed commanders to quickly mass troops within 30 minutes into any area of South Mogadishu .[66]

Col. Sharif Hassan Giumale had carefully analyzed Task Force Ranger's previous six operations in Mogadishu and attempted to adapt the lessons he had learned from to civil war and from his extensive reading on guerrilla insurgencies, particularly the FLMN in El Salvador - who had developed anti-aircraft tactics with infantry weapons, to the conflict with UNOSOM.[67][77] After close observation, he had hypothesized the American raids clearly stressed speed, so the SNA had to react more quickly. It was clear Americans greatest technological advantage in Mogadishu - and its Achilles heel, the helicopter, had to be neutralized during one of the ranger raids. This would completely negate the American element of speed and surprise, which would consequently draw them into a protracted fight with his troops. An attacking force of militia would then surround the target and offset the superior American firepower with sheer numbers. Ambushes and barricades would utilized in order to impede UNOSOM reinforcements.[66][67]

Knowing U.S. special forces considered themselves elite, Giumale believed that they were hubristically underrating the tactical capacity of SNA fighters, who had accrued months of urban fighting experience in the streets of Mogadishu.[67] According to Washington Post reporter Rick Atkinson, the majority of U.S. commanders in Mogadishu had underestimated the number of rocket-propelled grenades available to the SNA, and misjudged the threat they posed to helicopters.[73]


Military airfield, large gun in foreground
Helicopter taking off for the mission on 3 October

At 13:50, Task Force Ranger analysts received intelligence of Omar Salad's location. The soldiers, vehicle convoys, and helicopters were on stand by at Mogadishu International Airport until the code word "Irene" was called across all the radio channels by command, signaling the commencement of the operation.[78] American aircrew noticed soon after takeoff that Somalis had started to light burning tires around the city, a tactic the SNA had previously used to signal incursions and initiate counterattacks.[14]

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. Then, two Black Hawks carrying the second Delta assault team led by Delta 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 CW3 Jeff Niklaus, was accidentally put a block north of their intended point (2°03′05.5″N 45°19′27.9″E / 2.051528°N 45.324417°E / 2.051528; 45.324417). 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.[citation needed]

According to Somali National Alliance officials there was a 10 minute period of panic and confusion following the arrival of the Black Hawks,[15] but after getting a basic understanding of the situation, SNA Col. Sharif Hassan Giumale gave out the order over radio to officers across Mogadishu to start converging on the site of the battle and to begin organizing ambushes along likely reinforcement routes from the UNOSOM bases.[73] 10 minutes later, the roads surrounding the Olympic Hotel were covered with militia and nearly sealed.[15] Groups of SNA platoons arriving from other parts of South Mogadishu would quickly begin splintering into a half-dozen squads of about six or seven men. Following the initial call to arms, the SNA commanders ceased radio transmissions, cognizant that the Americans had the ability to jam and intercept their communications, opting to instead rely on hand written dispatches and couriers.[73][66]

Sandy city street, soldier barely in foreground
Rangers near the target building.

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, impeding the convoy from reaching the Rangers and their captives. Eventually it arrived ten minutes later near the Olympic Hotel (02°03′01.6″N 45°19′28.6″E / 2.050444°N 45.324611°E / 2.050444; 45.324611), down the street from target building and waited for Delta and Rangers to complete their mission. [79]

During the operation's first moments, Private First Class Todd Blackburn lost his grip while fast-roping from Super 67 as it hovered, and fell 70 feet (21 m) onto the street. Blackburn received severe injuries and required evacuation by a column of three Humvees. While taking Blackburn back to base, Sergeant Dominick Pilla, assigned to one of the Humvees being pelted with heavy fire from the surrounding buildings, was killed instantly when a bullet struck his head, marking the first American death of the battle.[80]

Witnesses reported the Humvee column arrived back at base, riddled with bullet holes and emitting smoke from the barrage of heavy fire it had received.[81]

First Black Hawk down[edit]

About 40 minutes after the assault began, one of the Black Hawks, Super 61, piloted by CW3 Cliff "Elvis" Wolcott, was struck by an RPG-7. Wolcott had tried to make his flight path erratic to avoid flying into an ambush, and to confuse RPG operators, to no avail. A single RPG round smashed into the Black Hawk and the helicopter went into an uncontrollable spin. The helicopter would violent crash into a residential area, coming to rest on a building wall, in an alleyway about 300 yards east of the target building (02°03′09.4″N 45°19′34.8″E / 2.052611°N 45.326333°E / 2.052611; 45.326333).[73] Both pilots were killed in the resulting crash and two of the crew were severely wounded. Two Delta snipers, Staff Sergeant Daniel Busch and Sergeant Jim Smith, survived the crash and began defending the crash site.[79]

Helicopter surveillance footage (no audio).

SNA soldiers in the area began calling out local residents, shouting on megaphones, “Kasoobaxa guryaha oo iska celsa cadowga! (Come out and defend your homes!)"[81] The militia fighters, in organized squads, quickly began to fan in and out of nearby buildings, alleys and trees to avoid the Little Bird helicopters converging to cover the wreck of Super 61.[66] A nearby MH-6 Little Bird, Star 41, quickly flew down to the Black Hawk crash site. The pilot steadied the controls in his left hand and fired a machine gun with his right, while the copilot dashed into the alley and helped the two Delta snipers, one of them mortally wounded, into the back of their helicopter.[73]

A combat search and rescue (CSAR) team was dispatched via Black Hawk Super 68. Led by Delta Captain Bill J. Coultrup, Sergeant Scott C. Fales, and Sergeant Timothy A. Wilkinson, the 15 man CSAR team were able to fast rope down to the Super 61 crash site.[73] While the last two men were rappelling the Black Hawk would take a direct RPG hit from SNA militia, almost totally severing the main rotor blades.[73] Super 68 was able to survive the hit and quickly limped back to base.[73]

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 armor plates salvaged from Super 61's wreckage.[82] 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.[83]

Second Black Hawk down[edit]

Yusuf Dahir Mo'alim, an SNA commander of a seven man RPG team, was slowly moving up towards the first crash site when they caught sight of a second Black Hawk helicopter. One of the men in Mo'alims squad knelt down on the road, aimed at the tail rotor and fired. The RPG connected with the tail rotor and the helicopter at first seemed to be fine. A few moments later the rotor assembly disintegrated and the helicopter began to lurch forward. It then started violently spinning and proceeded to drop 100 feet, slamming into the street and eliciting a cheer from the large crowd of Somali citizens gathering on the nearby streets.[13][66] The Black Hawk had been callsign Super 64, piloted by Michael Durant. They had been hit while orbiting almost directly over the wreckage of Super 61 at around 16:40 and crashed in an upright position into a group of tin shacks, narrowly avoiding the large buildings in the area (02°02′49.7″N 45°19′35.1″E / 2.047139°N 45.326417°E / 2.047139; 45.326417).[84][13][73] When Super 64 had impacted the ground, multiple homes had been destroyed and numerous Somalis in the area had been killed by fly debris. Enraged local residents who had seen the crash amassed in crowd surged toward Super 64.[66]

Soldiers in front of helicopter
The crew of Super 64 a month before the Battle of Mogadishu. From left: Winn Mahuron, Tommy Field, Bill Cleveland, Ray Frank and Mike Durant

In the half hour following the loss of Super 64, desperate U.S. commanders unsuccessfully attempted to relieve the besieged troops. A small Ranger relief column was dispatched from the airfield, only to have two Humvees wiped out (resulting in the death of three soldiers) after driving just one kilometer away from the base. SNA commanders had anticipated the American response and had set up numerous coordinated ambushes.[69] A few minutes later, Charlie Company of 10th Mountain Divisions Quick Reaction Force also tried to leave but was ambushed on Via Lenin road by SNA militia. In the break out attempt approximately 100 U.S. soldiers fired nearly 60,000 rounds of ammunition and hundreds of grenades in 30 minutes before having to withdraw back to the airfield.[15] Due to constant ambushes and incessant Somali resistance, it would take an additional nine hours for the QRF ground forces to eventually reach the besieged troops.[73]

At the second crash site, two Delta snipers, Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart, were inserted by Black Hawk Super 62. Their first two requests to be inserted were denied, but they were finally granted permission after their third and final request came following the news of the ambush on the QRF troops attempting to leave the airfield. After 10 minutes of Super 62 giving fire support to the Delta snipers, an RPG slammed into the cockpit, ripping straight through the engine and knocking the copilot unconscious. Despite the damage Super 62, able to vacate the area and make a crash landing a safe distance away from the battle.[73]

Lacking fire support, the snipers were overrun and Gordon was fatally wounded, Shughart picked up Gordon's CAR-15 and gave it to Durant. Shughart went back around the helicopter's nose and held off the crowd for approximately 10 more minutes before he was killed.[84] For their actions, MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the first awarded since the Vietnam War.[57] The crash site was then overran and all the crew members were killed except Durant. He had nearly been beaten to death, only to be saved by Yusuf Dahir Mo'alim.[84][66]

Defence of crash sites[edit]

Back at the first crash site, about 90 Rangers and Delta Force operators found themselves under heavy Somali fire.[79] Despite air support, the assault team was effectively trapped for the night. The Rangers and Delta had spread over a two-block area and were engaged in close combat against fighters who were sometimes only a door away. [66] Seeking shelter from the kill zone and a place to safeguard their wounded, the Americans had occupied four houses on Freedom Road, detaining about 20 Somalis who lived there. Several children were locked alone in the bathroom until soldiers let them rejoin their mothers, who would later allege that they had been handcuffed by the Americans.[73]

At 6:40 p.m., Col. Sharif Hassan Giumale, in charge of managing the majority of the Somali forces on the ground, received written instruction from Aidid to repel any reinforcements and take all measures necessary to prevent the Americans from escaping.[66] Approximately 360 militiamen had encircled the first helicopter, along with hundreds of other armed Somalis volunteers and irregulars not associated with the SNA.[73]

Knowing the Americans were well-entrenched in defensive positions they had taken on the four houses on Freedom Road, Col. Giumale ordered six 60mm mortars emplaced between 21 October Road and Armed Forces Street to obliterate the buildings. Before the assault was carried out an SNA officer came to Col. Giumale with the relatives of the Somalis detained in the homes and warned that their were women and children present in the building. Following the news of the civilian presence, Giumale sent a dispatch to another SNA commander, Col. Hashi Ali, that the mortars were to be held in abeyance except to harass UNOSOM reinforcements. Aidid would later send a dispatch agreeing with Giumales decision to halt the mortars, as he did not want to local civilian population to turn against the SNA.[66] American officers who were later made privy Giumale's decision conceded that the presence of the civilians prevented an attack, but disputed the notion that the mortars were powerful enough to wipe out Task Force Ranger. They contended that anti-mortar radar and Little Bird helicopters would have likely destroyed any mortar position after only firing one or two rounds.[73] The SNA alleged that the Americans had used Somali as civilians human shields to protect themselves, a charge which American officials vehemently denied and countered that the civilians were not hostages.[15]

While the U.S. forces waiting for relief held their position in the homes, MH-6 Little Birds, working in pairs and flying all night long, constantly strafed and pushed back the creeping forces of militia and have consequently been credited with keeping besieged Americans alive until dawn.[68][66][14] As night came many of the volunteers and irregulars would depart from the battle, leaving the experienced SNA fighters behind, American soldiers would notice that the shooting became less frequent but far more accurate.[13] An American participant in firefight would later remark, “They used concealment very well. Usually all you saw of a shooter was the barrel of his weapon and his head.”[14]

Relief convoy arrives[edit]

After midnight, a 70 vehicle Malaysian and Pakistani U.N. relief convoy, accompanied by U.S. troops, arrived at the first crash site at around 02:00. No contingency planning or coordination with U.N. forces had been arranged prior to the operation; consequently, the recovery of the surrounded American troops was significantly complicated and delayed. The mission had been kept secret even from top UN commanders, out of fear of tipping off Somali informants.[85] When the convoy finally pushed into the city, it consisted of more than 100 U.N. 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 defense of Super 61's downed crew and rescuers. The relief force sustained heavy casualties, including several killed, and a Malaysian soldier died when an RPG hit his Condor vehicle.[62][63]

Mogadishu Mile and conclusion[edit]

White armored vehicles
Malaysian Condor APCs.

Though Mohamed Farah Aidid had hours earlier given the order to Colonel Sharif Hassan Giumale to prevent the escape of any American soldiers, he had begun to become increasingly concerned with the mounting Somali death toll and the prospect of a severe and endless cycle of retaliation if the remaining U.S. troops holding out were killed by his militia. [15][66] With Durant now in his possession as hostage, Aidid later claimed in interview with journalists to have ordered a corridor to be opened up for the Americans as dawn broke. Despite Aidid's command, U.N. forces faced fierce shooting until they withdrew from the SNA's zone of control.[15][14]

While leaving the crash site, a group of Rangers and Delta operators led by SSG John R. Dycus realized that there was no room left in the vehicles for them and instead used the vehicles as cover. Forced to depart the city on foot, they proceeded to a rendezvous point at the intersection of Hawlwadig Road and National Street. This has been commonly referred to as the "Mogadishu Mile".[34] In the last few panicked minutes of the battle, with the convoy operating in a long column with staggered stops and starts, some vehicles ended up making a dash to the stadium, accidently leaving behind soldiers and forcing them to trek on foot. As the convoy drove back to base AH-1 Cobras and Little Birds provided covering fire overhead while Pakistani tanks fired at any buildings in the city where they had received hostile fire.[66]

Ten minutes later, the convoy reached the safety of the Pakistani base and a field medical hospital set up. The battle was over by 06:30 on Monday, 4 October. U.S. forces were finally evacuated to the U.N. base by the armored convoy. By 7 am, all survivors had reached safety at an aid station inside the stadium on 21 October Road.[73][66]


After the battle, the bodies of several of the conflict's U.S. 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 a large crowd of Somalis.[86]

After being asked to justify the incident in an interview with American television, Captain Haad of Somali National Alliance claimed that the bodies of the U.S. soldiers had been dragged through the streets by enraged civilians/irregulars who had lost dozens of friends and family, and that the actual SNA soldiers had not partaken in the incident.[87] He would further point to the July 12, 1993, Abdi House Raid that had first led the SNA to begin target U.S. soldiers saying, "Wouldn't you be very sorry about 73 of our elder men, of our religious leaders, of our most prominent people, having their bodies mutilated -- we collected parts of their bodies from the building in which they were attacked -- if you were a son of one of those people killed on that day, what would be your situation, how would you feel?"[87]

General Garrison leading the remembrance service for the fallen following the October 3 battle

Through negotiation and threats to the Habr Gidir clan leaders by the U.S. Special Envoy for Somalia, Robert B. Oakley, all the bodies were eventually recovered.[88] 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.[89] Three months later all Somali prisoners in U.N. custody were released including Aidids lieutenants Omar Salad Elmi and Mohamed Hassan Awale, who had been the targets of the 3 October raid.[73]

Result of battle[edit]

Two weeks after the battle, General Garrison, in a handwritten letter to President Clinton, took full responsibility for the battle's outcome. He would argue that Task Force Ranger had met their objective—capturing the targets of value.[90]

The SNA leadership had the express goal of expelling U.S. forces from Somalia following the Abdi House Raid, and knew that the Americans would not be able tolerate casualties, especially in a conflict they had no real stake. They believed that inflicting any notable casualties on the Americans would cause Congress and the public to turn against participation in UNOSOM II and withdraw from Somalia.[65][66][91] General Garrison had noted before the Battle of Mogadishu that if a serious firefight was had with the SNA, "...we'll win the gunfight, but we might lose the war."[91] The SNA's objective was not to achieve a tactical military victory against the Americans and UNOSOM, but to sap their will to continue fighting and force a complete disengagement from Somalia.[66]

Historian Stephen Biddle noted, "it was the UN, not the SNA, that disengaged to end the fighting. The relief column that ultimately extracted TF Ranger had to fight its way into and out of the Bakara Market; SNA fighters were resisting fiercely until UN forces crossed out of Aideed’s zone of control and withdrew to their bases."[14] In Losing Mogadishu: Testing US Policy in Somalia, Johnathan Stevenson argued that the Americans had not recognized that, much like the North Vietnamese guerillas, the Somali National Alliance was deliberately executing a military philosophy of attrition in order to achieve victory in spite of a high kill ratio, knowing they could absorb far more losses than the Americans would be able to tolerate.[91]

Known casualties and losses[edit]


The Somali casualties were a mixture of militiamen, irregulars/volunteers, local civilians and the exact number of dead is unknown. Estimates greatly vary from several hundred to several thousand militiamen and civilians killed,[92][93] with injuries around 1,000–4,000.[94] The Somali casualties were reported in The Washington Post as 312 killed and 814 wounded.[95] Mark Bowden's book Black Hawk Down estimates more than 700 Somali militiamen dead and more than 1,000 wounded. The SNA claimed a much lower casualty rate acknowledging only 133 troops killed in the whole battle.[96][2] Aidid himself claimed that only 315 – civilians and militia – were killed and 812 wounded.[4]

Somali civilians suffered heavy casualties due to the dense urban character of the portion of Mogadishu that fighting took place in. According to Captain Haad of the Somali National Alliance, the civilian death toll was "...almost uncountable, because the place where the fire took place is one of the busiest sectors of Mogadishu...each bullet fired in one direction might have killed four or five or six persons, because the place is very populous." [87] The International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that 200 Somali civilians were killed and several hundred wounded in the fighting.[97] According to American war correspondent Scott Peterson, approximately a third of all the Somali casualties were women and children.[15]

The non-SNA volunteers, comprised mostly of untrained civilians turned combatant with grievances against UNOSOM troops, were a significant issue for Somali National Alliance commanders as they complicated situation on the ground and often got themselves killed with their inexperience.[73] Experienced soldiers were seen pleading with enraged crowds of Somalis not to go near the crash sites as the Americans were spraying into the approaching masses.[13][14] One high ranking SNA official complained after the battle, "...everybody tried to attack, they came this way, they went that way. If people had left it to the militia and the officers, it would have been no problem."[15]

Ambassador Robert B. Oakley, the U.S. 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...Helicopter gunships 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."[98]

Most of the Somalis death toll is attributed to the numerous helicopter gunship runs in the narrow alley ways of Mogadishu made by MH-6 Little Birds in support of the U.S. ground forces.[99] They had fired no less than 50,000 Alpha 165 and 63 rockets over the course of the battle.[72]

United States[edit]

At the time the battle was the deadliest fight involving U.S. troops since the Vietnam War.[15] Two days after, a 19th soldier, Delta operator SFC Matt Rierson, was killed in a mortar attack. That same day, a team on special mission Super 64 incurred two wounded.[100]

Though The Pentagon initially reported the five American soldiers had been killed, in all, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in action during the battle, and another 73 were wounded in action.[101] [102]

Man in suit hands item to woman in purple
US President Bill Clinton presenting the Medal of Honor to Carmen, the widow of Master Sergeant Gary I. Gordon, who served as Sniper Team Leader in the United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu.
Name Age Action Medal(s) Awarded (Posthumously)
Operators of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta
MSG Gary Ivan Gordon 33 Killed defending Super Six-Four's crew Medal of Honor, Purple Heart[57]
SFC Randy Shughart 35 Killed defending Super Six-Four's crew Medal of Honor, Purple Heart[57]
SSG Daniel Darrell Busch 25 Sniper on crashed UH-60 Helicopter Super Six-One, mortally wounded defending the downed crew Silver Star, Purple Heart[103]
SFC Earl Robert Fillmore, Jr. 28 Killed moving to the first crash site Silver Star, Purple Heart[104]
MSG Timothy Lynn Martin 38 Mortally wounded by an RPG on the Lost Convoy, died while en route to a field hospital in Germany Silver Star, Purple Heart.[105]
SFC Matthew Loren Rierson 33 Killed by stray mortar shell that landed near him 6 October 2 days after the initial raid Silver Star, Bronze star, Purple Heart.[106]
Soldiers of the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
CPL James "Jamie" E. Smith 21 Killed around crash site one Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and Oak leaf cluster,
Purple Heart[107]
SPC James M. Cavaco 26 Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device, Purple Heart[108]
SGT James Casey Joyce 24 Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device, Purple Heart[108]
CPL Richard "Alphabet" W. Kowalewski, Jr. 20 Killed on the Lost Convoy by an RPG Bronze Star with Valor Device, Purple Heart[109]
SGT Dominick M. Pilla 21 Killed on Struecker's convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device, Purple Heart[109]
SGT Lorenzo M. Ruiz 27 Mortally wounded on the Lost Convoy, died en route to a field hospital in Germany Bronze Star with Valor Device, Purple Heart[109]
Pilots and Crew of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
SSG William "Wild Bill" David Cleveland, Jr. 34 Crew chief on Super Six-Four, killed Silver Star,
Bronze Star,
Air Medal with Valor Device, Purple Heart[110]
SSG Thomas "Tommie" J. Field 25 Crew chief on Super Six-Four, killed Silver Star,
Bronze Star,
Air Medal with Valor Device, Purple Heart
CW4 Raymond "Ironman" Alex Frank 45 Super Six-Four's copilot, killed Silver Star,
Air Medal with Valor Device, Purple Heart[111]
CW3 Clifton "Elvis" P. Wolcott 36 Super Six-One's pilot, died in crash Distinguished Flying Cross,
Bronze Star,
Air Medal with Valor Device, Purple Heart[110]
CW3 Donovan "Bull" Lee Briley 33 Super Six-One's copilot, died in crash Distinguished Flying Cross,
Bronze Star,
Air Medal with Valor Device, Purple Heart[112]
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division
SGT Cornell Lemont Houston, Sr.
1st Platoon, C Company, 41st Engr BN
31 Member of the "Lost Platoon". Wounded by shrapnel from an RPG whilst recovering a severely wounded Malaysian soldier on the rescue convoy.[113] Also shot in the leg and chest.[114] Died of wounds at Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center.[115] Bronze Star with Valor Device,
de Fleury Medal, Purple Heart[116]
PFC James Henry Martin, Jr. 23 Member of 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Company A.[117] Killed on the rescue convoy by a bullet to the head.[114] Purple Heart[118]


Military truck in front of building
A Pakistani UNOSOM armed convoy making the rounds.

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.[119]


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 4 October.[57] Corporal Mat Aznan Awang was awarded the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa medal (Gallant Warrior/Warrior of Extreme Valor).[62][103]

Military fallout[edit]

Tanks roll through desert
Column of M1A1 Abrams and M2 Bradley of 64th Armor Regiment in Mogadishu in January 1994.

In a national security policy review session held in the White House on 6 October 1993, U.S. President Bill 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 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 31 March 1994. On 15 December 1993, U.S. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin stepped down, taking much of the blame for his decision to refuse requests for tanks and armored vehicles in support of the mission.[120][121] Garrison would write, however, that Aspin was not to blame for the events in Mogadishu. It's also since been noted that the equipment may not have arrived in time to make a difference.[122] A few hundred U.S. 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. 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 M1 Abrams tanks were delivered by air, using the C-5 Galaxies, which delivered 18 M1 tanks and 44 Bradley infantry vehicles,[123] while the balance of Task Force Rogues equipment and vehicles were delivered via a roll-on/roll-off ship sent from Fort Stewart (Hinesville), Georgia, to Mogadishu to provide armored support for U.S. forces.[citation needed]

On 4 February 1994, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 897, which set a process for completing the UNOSOM II mission by March 1995, with the withdrawal of U.N. 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 6 March 1995, all of the remaining U.N. troops were withdrawn, ending UNOSOM II.[124]

Policy changes and political implications[edit]

Cpl. Jamie Smith Memorial - Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey

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.[125] 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 U.S. security interests at home.[126] 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".[127]

The loss of U.S. 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 U.S. humanitarian efforts in the region.[127][128]

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 U.S. 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."[129]

Clinton's remarks would suggest the U.S. was not deterred from pursuing their humanitarian goals because of the loss of U.S. 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.[129]

Fear of a repeat of the events in Somalia shaped U.S. policy in subsequent years, with many commentators identifying the Battle of Mogadishu's graphic consequences as the key reason behind the U.S.'s decision to not intervene in later conflicts such as the Rwandan genocide of 1994. According to the U.S.'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."[130] 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.[131]

Alleged links with Al-Qaeda[edit]

Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization 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 U.S. 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 rumored to have included the organization's military chief, Mohammed Atef, later killed by U.S. 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.[132]

Four and a half years after the Battle of Mogadishu, in an interview in May 1998, bin Laden disparaged the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia.[133] While he had previously claimed responsibility for the ambush,[134] bin Laden denied having orchestrated the attack on the U.S. soldiers in Mogadishu but expressed delight at their deaths in battle against Somali fighters.[133]

American war correspondent Scott Peterson, after extensive interviews with SNA personnel and other Somalis involved in the conflict with UNOSOM wrote, "Somalis laugh at this claim that bin Laden helped them and say—unanimously—that they never even heard of bin Laden until he began boasting about Somalia years later"[135]

Aidid's men received some expert guidance in shooting down helicopters from fundamentalist Islamic soldiers, possibly from members of al-Qaeda, who had experience fighting Russian helicopters during the Soviet–Afghan War.[54] 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.[136] Al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl also claimed that the group had trained the men responsible for shooting down the U.S. helicopters.[137]

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.[138]

Published accounts[edit]

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.[139]

Falcon Brigade: Combat and Command in Somalia and Haiti, by Lawrence E. Casper (Col. USA Ret.), 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.[140]

In 2011, Staff Sergeant Keni Thomas, a U.S. Army Ranger recounted the combat experience in a memoir titled Get It On!: What It Means to Lead the Way.[141]

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.[142]

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).[143]


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.[144]

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.[145]


The American series PBS Frontline aired a documentary titled "Ambush in Mogadishu" in 1998.[146][147]

The True Story of Black Hawk Down (2003) is a TV documentary which premièred on The History Channel. It was directed by David Keane.[148]

The American Heroes Channel television series, Black Ops, aired an episode titled "The Real Black Hawk Down" in June 2014.[149]

The National Geographic Channel television series, No Man Left Behind, aired an episode titled "The Real Black Hawk Down" on 28 June 2016.[150]

The Seconds from Disaster television series spotlighted the raid and rescue mission in the Season 7 episode "Chopper Down" aired in February 2018.[151]

Rangers return in 2013[edit]

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.[152]

Super 61 returns to US[edit]

Mechanical linkage in musem
The mostly intact main rotor of Black Hawk Super 61, which was shot down in Mogadishu, Somalia in October 1993. This is one of the "Black Hawks Down."

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.[153] The exhibit features immersive dioramas and artifacts from the battle including the wreckage of Super 61, the first Black Hawk helicopter shot down during the battle, and Super 64.[154] As of October 2018, a fully restored Super 68 is on display at the Army Aviation Museum in Fort Rucker, Alabama.[155]


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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 2°03′09″N 45°19′29″E / 2.05250°N 45.32472°E / 2.05250; 45.32472