We have been driving on the outskirts of the city for a little while, and seen some wrecks of military vehicles on the roadside. Together with the many ruined buildings in Mogadishu, it is hardly surprising to see them: they are just another reminder of the long war that ravaged the country for more than twenty years. When we stop at a corner, I see three wrecks of armoured personnel carriers, one on top of the other. We get off, and my guide tells me that this is the Black Hawk Down site, named after the fierce Battle of Mogadishu that took place back in October 1993, between UNOSOM forces consisting of US, Malaysian and Pakistani military, against the Al Qaeda-related Somali National Alliance.
Infamous because of its impact on the US army, the loss of 18 lives, and dragging the corpses of some of the dead through the dusty streets of the capital, the battle made it into a book and a movie, as at the time, it was the worst loss of military life for the US since the Vietnam War. At the beginning of the battle, two Black Hawk helicopters were shot out of the sky by Somali fighters, and much of the battle that ensued was about retrieving those trapped in or around the wrecks. What is less known, at least to many in the West, is that the fighting also took a huge amount of Somali militia and civilian life, with estimates from many hundreds to several thousand; plus several Pakistani and Malaysian dead. There were no winners that violent day.
Today is a sunny and seemingly quiet day, and when we get off, only the presence of the armed guards reminds me that Mogadishu is still not a safe city. Three goats walking past the wrecks of three armoured personnel carriers, trying to find something to eat amidst the rubbish inside and around them. The three wrecks have no more paint, no markings, re slowly rusting away in the dry climate of Mogadishu, and whatever useful was still inside, has been taken away. They are mere carcasses on a quiet corner of the city, of which younger people perhaps don't even know what they are, or what the story behind these wrecks is. I look inside the small space of the vehicles, and try to imagine what it must have been like to be inside here for young soldiers, far away from their homes, fighting on strange soil as part of a UN relief effort, convinced they were helping the local population, who had been suffering badly from starvation after the war had destroyed much of the agriculture in the country. As it would turn out, the situation in Somalia would only make turns for the worse for many years to come.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Black Hawk Down site (Somalia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Black Hawk Down site.
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