On this day in 1992, over 1500 Marines and support personnel arrive in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The country had been plunged into anarchy and various factions had turned the country into a war zone. There was no central authority or government in the country. The US force that arrived by sea and air was designed to lead a multinational force that was intended to restore law and order in Somalia.
Somali had been dominated by several European powers for over a century and a half. Mogadishu became the capital of Somalia in 1960. After some years the military seized power and a Major became the virtual dictator of the country. Major Siad Barre declared that Somalia was now a Socialist country and he allied the country with Moscow. In the mid-1970s Somalia became involved in a war with neighboring Ethiopia in order to gain control of the Ethiopian province of Ogaden, which has an ethnic Somali majority. Somalia was eventually defeated in this war after the Cubans and Soviets backed the Ethiopians. In the years following the country slowly began to tear itself apart. Rival clans and factions began to fight among themselves. The Barre government was unable to assert control beyond Mogadishu and in 1992 the old dictator Barre was forced to flee the country. The country descended into anarchy and it is estimated that some 50,000 people were killed. The war coincided with a terrible drought and this caused a widespread famine. It is estimated that almost a quarter of a million people starved-to-death. The famine and fighting shocked the world and the United Nations called on the nations of the world to act. The US President George Bush responded to the call and he ordered the Marines into Mogadishu.
The marines were to help protect the distribution of aid and relief in particular. The US and the multinational force was able to protect aid workers and allow them to help the Somali people. However, well-armed clans and factions continued to fight each other and disrupt the supply of aid, especially in rural areas. Violence continued in Mogadishu and there one Somali group attacked a Pakistan unit and killed two dozen soldiers. The UN ordered the arrest of the leader of the groups, the self-styled General, Farah Aidid. The Americans tried to arrest the General but he escaped and Adid’s fighters shot down two Black Hawk helicopters and killed 18 soldiers. In one horrific instance, a dead American soldier was dragged through the streets.
The new President Bill Clinton immediately gave the order to withdraw all-American forces from Mogadishu. Somalia remained in a state of anarchy and despite a peace agreement in 2002, the nation is still ravaged by war. At present, an Al-Qaeda affiliated group is waging war against the Somali government and its African Union backers.