OPERATION RESTORE HOPE(SOMALIA) 1992-1993
US AND NIGERIAN TROOPS HALT SOMALI SHOOTINGS
NEW YORK TIMES
By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO
Published: February 27, 1993
Nigerian forces and United States marines today occupied buildings in southern Mogadishu from which recent sniper attacks had been staged. Suspected gunmen were arrested and quantities of weapons were seized.
American military and diplomatic officials said the disturbances of the last two days, which had paralyzed relief operations in Mogadishu, would not affect United States plans for a speedy transfer of command of the foreign military effort in Somalia to the United Nations. The move on the buildings by Nigerian and American forces came after an early morning burst of sniper fire opposite the Sahafi Hotel, where many foreign journalists are staying. This prompted a barrage of answering heavy weapons fire from Nigerian forces.
A United States military spokesman said today that the massive firepower from the Nigerian soldiers, while a deterrent to looters, was also hitting unintended targets, including the compound of the former United States Embassy, now a military headquarters.
“That bullet’s going to come down somewhere,” Col. Fred Peck, the American military spokesman, said. “And when it comes down next to the sergeant major’s tent, it’s going to get some attention.”
U.S. Advises Nigerians
Colonel Peck said United States military officials had discussed “fire discipline — knowing where your rounds are going,” with the Nigerian commander. Gunfire from Nigerian forces guarding the major traffic circle known as K-4 had also struck the mess hall tent and the north side of the embassy, about a mile from the intersection, Colonel Peck said.
In repelling snipers and suspected looters who approached the traffic circle from several directions Thursday, Nigerian soldiers loosed an immense array of rocket-propelled grenade, machine-gun and rifle fire. The shooting spree by Somalis ended after United States marines began a weapons sweep of houses in the area under helicopter cover.
Colonel Peck said the sweep produced seven AK-47 assault rifles, three heavy machine guns, 30 hand grenades, a 120-millimeter heavy mortar and one light mortar, among other weapons.
Today’s shooting ended when the Nigerian soldiers searched the buildings where shooting had occurred for snipers and weapons. They brought out six younger men, three women, and an elderly man.
Somalis Are Questioned
The six younger men, who appeared to range in age from the teens to mid-30’s, were led up to the roof, where their hands were bound. They were questioned by a marine and a Somali interpreter on the rooftop, then they were led away to the Nigerian military headquarters for interrogation.
Colonel Peck said they had been released by late afternoon. “I don’t know that we caught any perpetrators of the firing,” he said. “Perhaps some of the sympathizers.”
As the area around the traffic circle returned to normal, United States military and diplomatic officials tried to smooth over the conflict with Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid, a clan leader whose forces triggered the disturbances after a rival warlord, Gen. Mohammed Said Hersi, also known as Morgan, had launched an attack on allies of General Aidid in the southern port city of Kismayu.
In leaflets and in broadcasts over his radio station, General Aidid blamed the United States for unevenly disarming the various warlords and leaving his own partisans vulnerable to attack. On Wednesday, he called on his supporters to demonstrate against the foreign presence. Nigerian forces said the shooting Thursday had started at a police compound occupied by General Aidid, though associates of the general said he did not condone the violence or control the gunmen.
American officials also seemed eager to calm the hostility that hovered around the traffc intersection. “All I can tell you is our considerable effort is being devoted to containing this political matter,” said a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Envoy Writes Open Letter
In an open letter published in the Americans’ Somali-language newspaper, Robert B. Oakley, the United States envoy, blamed what he called “wildly erroneous and exaggerated” reports that General Morgan’s forces had taken Kismayu for stirring the ire of General Aidid. “There is not even a thought, much less a plan, to favor one group or individual over another, or to impose foreign culture or structures upon Somalis,” the letter said.
While acknowledging the unrest had halted relief shipments for the last two days,diplomats and military officials stressed the handover of command to United Nations leadership would go forward, whatever the degree of stability achieved in Somalia by late April.
“What we have undertaken is to create a secure environment for the delivery of relief shipments, and we’ve done that,” a western diplomat said.