Black Hawk Down: 20 Years Since Military Disaster


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The twentieth anniversary of one of the U.S. military's greatest botched missions, "Black Hawk Down," was yesterday. In celebration, the US government recently released the classified footage of the operation. The video above contains some of that footage, and 60 Minutes will probably air even more.

2001's blockbuster film Black Hawk Down (dir. by Ridley Scott) famously dramatized the events of October 3-4, 1993, when a U.S. military force of combined arms flew into Mogadishu's Bakara Market to take down militant leaders associated with tribal chief Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Aidid's militias were hoarding hijacked food at the time and refusing to allow UN peacekeepers to render international aid.

In the battle, referred to by military historians as the Battle of Mogadishu or by Somali locals as 'The Day of the Rangers,' Aidid's civilian militias shot down two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during the initial assault, and what was meant to be a sixty minute operation became a 12 hour running gun battle throughout Mogadishu between a couple hundred Rangers and several thousand armed civilians. When the team finally managed to exfiltrate the battle zone, 18 U.S. soldiers had been killed.

The AFP reported yesterday that, in honor of the recent anniversary, president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia gave a speech commemorating the dead on both sides of the conflict, and lauding the progress of the country. "Somalis have known nothing but conflict and suffering for two decades, today we have at last emerged from the ashes of war," he said. "As we celebrate our recovery we also mark with sadness and respect the lives lost on both sides in the madness of that conflict and we say firmly, never again."

Since Mohamed Aidid usurped Somalia's previous government in 1991, the UN refused to recognize Somalia as legitimately governed until the administration of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. "Many people around the world know Somalia only through the distorted lens of 'Black Hawk Down.' Yet, Somalia has moved on into a new chapter with a recognized government that is healing the wounds of war," he said of his country's efforts.

Although the book and film adaptation made little attempt to study the tribal conflict or the civilian militia who participated, indictments charging Osama bin Laden in connection to the events of the Battle of Mogadishu have surfaced. Allegedly, al-Qaeda commanders traveled to Somalia under bin Laden's orders to train soldiers. Some of those soldiers participated in the violence of October 3-4 and potentially had a hand in its disastrous outcome. Because of allegations regarding the involvement of al-Qaeda, the battle is now being called one of the first in America's War on Terror.

[Image via a brief YouTube 60 Minutes video of the footage]