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SMH.com.au: From the Archives, 1992: Bloodless landing in Mogadishu, then Marines lay down the law

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Thursday, 08 December 2022

30 years ago the US led UN taskforce Operation Hope and Restore began in Somalia, with 1,800 United States Marines landing in Mogadishu and food relief aircraft set to fly in.

By SUE NEALES and TONY WRIGHT

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, December 10, 1992

BLOODLESS LANDING, THEN MARINES LAY DOWN THE LAW

MOGADISHU, Wednesday Dec 9, 1992: Food relief aircraft are expected to begin flying into Mogadishu this afternoon, less than 12 hours after the arrival of 1,800 United States troops, backed by a massive display of military might in the Somalian capital.

Braving the warring clans of reporters, photographers and anchormen, US forces storm the beaches at Mogadishu.

Braving the warring clans of reporters, photographers and anchormen, US forces storm the beaches at Mogadishu.Credit:AP Photo / Roberto Borea

As operation Restore Hope got under way, the Australian Government was considering a request from the US to send several hundred troops to Somalia.

The request was made by the US Ambassador, Mr Melvin Sembler, when he met the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Evans, in Parliament House.

The “invasion” of Somalia was watched by millions of US viewers on prime-time TV and filmed by dozens of international television news crews and press photographers who greeted the invading forces on the sandy beach next to the airport.

The Marine commandos were ferried ashore this morning by helicopters and amphibious assault vessels, escorted by armed Cobra helicopters.

Scattered small-arms fire was heard as personnel carriers and eight-wheeled tanks disgorged from the hovercraft at the port. By 6 am, about 100 Marines were at the port and a few minutes later the port captain was detained.

A handful of Somalis were arrested and about 60 reporters were ordered to lie face down on the dock for 15 minutes by Marines annoyed to find them there. The action prompted accusations of heavy-handed treatment.

 
From the front page of The Herald, December 10, 1992.

From the front page of The Herald, December 10, 1992.Credit:The Sydney Morning Herald

The Marines later released many of the Somalis at Mogadishu Airport, but Captain Tim Miller said some were still being held.

Four huge US Air Force cargo planes have already landed at the newly-secured airport, carrying the first of the next wave of more than 30,000 United Nations-sanctioned coalition troops.

A ship carrying wheat is also heading for Mogadishu port, in a bid to test how secure it is and to see if either of the two main fighting factions will continue to disrupt unloading operations.

Operation Restore Hope aims to prevent an estimated two million Somalis dying of starvation in the next two months, caused by a combination of famine and two years of fighting and devastation.

More than 30,000 tonnes of food is stored at the port, but gunfire and looting has prevented it reaching starving rural regions.

The commander of Operation Restore Hope, Colonel Gregory Newbolt, said after the landing that he had been very pleased with the speed and efficiency of the operation.

He said his top priority was to secure Mogadishu so that food could immediately start flowing to the stricken rural areas to the west and north of the capital.

Colonel Newbolt said the next step was to secure all strategic ports and high ground within Mogadishu itself.

He declined to elaborate on details about when US troops would fly into the faction-torn country towns of Baidoa and Bardera.

However, it is understood that Marines are likely to move into Baidoa, where shooting and killings were continuing earlier this week, within two days.

It is clear that Colonel Newbolt wants to get food relief moving around the country as soon as possible, to demonstrate to the Somalis that the US is intervening only for humanitarian reasons.

The Mogadishu warlord General Mohamed Farah Aideed welcomed the arrival of the US troops, following a deal between himself and the special US envoy, Mr Richard Oakley.

Under the agreement, General Aideed made a national radio speech calling on his supporters to put away their weapons and not to resist the Marines, providing the military operation was confined to the airport and port.

General Aideed also called on the US to be prepared to play the major negotiating role in determining Somalia’s future leadership - the issue which has torn the nation apart since early 1991.

Colonel Fred Peck, military spokesman for the joint coalition task force to Somalia, denied after the landing operation that the US had used excessive force and aggression.


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