UN concedes need to catch Aideed


Mark Huband in Mogadishu

The Guardian, 21 July 1993


NUMEROUS attempts capture by the United Nations to capture the renegade Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed have been launched and ended in failure, the UN special representative to Somalia, Admiral Jonathon Howe, admitted yesterday.

Until now Adm Howe has played down the importance of capturing and trying Gen Aideed on war crimes charges, but in an interview in Mogadishu yesterday he acknowledged that UN attempts to arrest him had failed and that his capture was essential if the $1.2 billion UN operation in Somalia was to function properly.

Adm Howe previously gave the Impression that Gen Aideed’s capture was not a prerequisite for the successful relaunching of UN humanitarian and reconstruction programmes. However, he admitted yesterday that his troops did not control southern Mogadishu because the warlord was still at large, and said he feared Gen Aideed may evade the manhunt altogether.

Asked if the UN had been foiled in its attempts to arrest him, Adm Howe said: “Yes.., I wouldn’t call them bungled attempts, more opportunities, have. There have been, and I think there will be, many others but I’d rather not give you a number. I don’t want Aideed to know how many there have been. I want him to be worried.”

“These were genuine attempts to capture him, and his safety would.be one of our considerations,” he said.

The UN remains determined to capture Gen Aideed alive, though senior UN sources have said that there have been several occasions when it would have been easy to kill him. The UN has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to his capture. Adm Howe said the UN was relying on Somali informers rather than electronic surveillance to track Gen Aideed’s movements.

His demonisation as a criminal started after 24 Pakistani UN troops were slaughtered and mutilated in an ambush in Mogadishu on June 6. Gen Aideed was blamed and the UN demanded that he answer for the killings. He refused. On June 17 the UN issued an arrest warrant which has led to an upsurge in violence in the city.

Failure to arrest Gen Aideed has led to a build-up of troops in Mogadishu. Adm Howe said the number of UN troops to be used in enforced disarmament of the factions in Mogadishu will be increased with the arrival of additional Egyptian and Zimbabwean soldiers, Pakistani armoured personnel carriers and tanks and more than 5,000 new forces from India and Malaysia.

These troops will allow the UN to “assert a degree of control over the city”, Adm Howe said. Since June 12, when the UN bombed Gen Aideed’s military positions and later his house in Mogadishu, the UN has seen some districts become no-go areas for its troops.

For the past five days there have been shooting incidents in all parts of the city occupied by Gen Aideed’s supporters in the Somali National Alliance.

“I feel less safe now than at any time in the past year,” said a senior UN employee yesterday. “The bandits have reappeared and there are far more guns around than we have seen in months. The bandits are going into people’s houses and looting, and nothing is being done about it. When the bombing started a month ago the UN withdrew. Now it has to recapture Mogadishu,” she said.


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