UN troops kill protestors



US resumes air strikes after 14 die in Mogadishu demonstration

 

Mark Huband in Mogadishu

The Guardian, 14 June 1993

 

UNARMED civilians were mown down by machine gun fire from United Nations troops in the Somali capital yesterday as fury at American missile bombardment of alleged arms dumps spread throughout the south of the city and erupted into angry protests.

Nevertheless, US AC-I30 gunships returned early this morning to attack the city for the third night running, this time apparently targeting an area further from the city centre and the residence of the warlord General Mohamed Farah Aideed.

Fourteen bodies were taken to two city hospitals after Pakitani UN troops opened fire with a heavy machine gun on a crowd protesting at Saturday night’s American bombing of a compound said by the UN to have contained military supplies belonging to Gen Aideed.

A crowd of 50 was approaching a road junction called Kilometre Four at 11am overlooked by a multi-story building with two UN gun emplacements on the roof. One witness said that shots were fired at the Pakistanis from the crowd. Two minutes of heavy gunfire from the UN troops led to panic. People fled, many of them injured, leaving six bodies on the road and others wounded.

A boy of about 12 who received the full force of the barrage had the top of his head blown away. A man lay with both his legs practically shot away. A woman lay screaming in agony, as the Pakistani troops on the nearby rooftop yelled at bystanders and journalists to get off the street.

As they carried the dead and injured away, people hurled insults at the UN, and on many streets erected roadblocks and barricades guarded by men armed with AK-47 machine guns and knives.

“We are not in the United Nations. We are out of the UN,” yelled Halima Xanshi, a nurse at Benaadir hospital where some of the injured were taken.

The commander of Pakistani troops in Somalia, Brigadier Ikram-ul-Hasan, said his troops had not exceeded the terms of the UN mandate when they fired. “Our rules of engagement are clear. We are authorised to shoot at armed gunmen even when they are in the crowds, because they are a threat to the soldiers … We shoot at anyone who shoots at us.”

He said Somali gunmen routinely use civilian crowds as human shields to launch their attacks. Witnesses, however, say it is likely that the gunmen who opened fire on the Pakistani troops were on the roof of a nearby building. No guns were found among the dead when reached the site immediately after the shooting.

UN bombardment of buildings controlled by Gen Aideed was approved by the UN Security Council in an attempt to destroy the United Soimali Congress. Demands for tough action came after the killing and mutilation of 23 Pakistani troops in an unprovoked attack, probably by USC supporter, nine days ago.

Of those shot yesterday 14 have died and 11 are suffering from severe gunshot wounds. As he left Benaadir hospital after visiting he injured, Gen Aideed said: ‘I am very very much disappointed by the killing of the Somali people, which has been ordered by President Clinton. The Somali people are very much disappointed, and the world will realise now who is right and who is wrong.”

On Saturday three people were killed when Pakistani UN troops shot at a protest march as it reached the perimeter wall of the UN military headquarters. The bodies of two people, one still alive, were left yards from manned UN military positions.

Yesterday, three UN personnel carriers drove round the bodies at Kilometre Four without offering to remove them.

Aerial bombardment by US AC-130 Specter aircraft destroyed five arms and equipment dumps and Gen Aideed’s radio station on Friday night.

The raid yesterday was designed to destroy the USC’s ability to assemble mounted weapons in a compound next to Gen Aideed’s house.

The American head of UN military intelligence, Colonel Kelvin McGovern, saifd the UN had considered warning people about the imminent attack, but had not done so because “we determined that there was only a militia guard force in the area and that there would be little  or no civilian casualties.”

 

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