Col (R) Maqbool Afridi |
My unit, 15 Frontier Force Regiment “Fighting Fifteen” was deputed for UNOSOM II, Mogadishu, Somalia from Aug 1993 to Oct, 1994. The unit underwent a remarkable experience of hostile actions & humanitarian work. The unit took part to rescue US Rangers from the clutches of hostile Somali militia in the famous operation termed by the Americans “Battle of Mogadishu”.
On 3rd Oct, 1993, US Rangers Rescue Operation was carried out along with US Rangers / Delta Force / QRF, comprising of 160 soldiers, 19 aircrafts (including 8 Black Hawk Helicopters & 8 Little Birds). The Pakistani force comprised of 15 FF & 19 L, having APC borne Platoon & troop of tank respectively. The Malaysian force comprised of few empty APCs for accommodating the stranded soldiers.
At about 1500 hrs, US Rangers raided Olympic Hotel, in the middle of city, to apprehend Gen Farrah Aidid & his aides. As per plan the US Rangers were dropped from the helicopters & they apprehend few Somalis. Once the Rangers were being retrieved, 2 helicopters were shot by the Somalis with rocket launchers. The helicopters fell down and the crew took up defensive position in the nearby buildings.
Mean while, many ground attempts were made by US troops to reach the hotel and extricate the stranded soldiers. But Somalis had by then erected many road blocks on the roads leading to the hotel. The Somali militia effective fires on helicopters as well as on ground forces nullify all efforts of the US troops to extricate their stranded soldiers.
At about 1700 hrs, Pakistan contingent was asked to help to rescue the stranded Rangers. The Pakistani force was given the task to lead the Rangers Force / Delta Force from sea port till the Olympic Hotel, give fire support at the site and once the stranded Rangers are rescued then cover the withdrawal of the Force. The operation started at about 2300 hrs from the sea port.
Pakistani force was in the lead followed by US troops in their humvees and the Malaysian APCs at the end. Throughout the move Pakistani force came under heavy fire from the close by buildings / streets but due to effective counter fire they made the headway. At last the force reached the site at about 0030 hrs.
As per plan the US Rangers / QRF started contacting the stranded troops and some troops were extricated. The whole night Pakistani force provided fire support to US troops and was also fighting the Somali militia who was firing on them from multiple directions. Due to stiff resistance & effective fire by the militia, there was lack of coordination / coherence amongst the various US fighting groups. The US Rangers were not able to contact the group which was in the south of the Olympic Hotel and they were worried as day light was approaching.
The last group was contacted at 0500 hrs but due to panic and fatigue the US soldiers started firing on each other and few got injured. Many US soldiers were accommodated in own APCs. One of the badly wounded US soldier left behind was dragged and accommodated by Lt Baber in his own APC (Lt Baber being light weight couldn’t pick him being heavy weight). After retrieving the stranded soldiers the force started moving back at about 0530 hrs.
The Pakistani troops were at the tail end to protect the force from Somali militia who was chasing them with intense fire from every direction. The complete force reached Soccer Stadium at about 0700 hrs on 4th Oct, 1993. They were provided with first aid, tea & water etc by Pakistan contingent. From there, the US troops were lifted by helicopters to their camp.
Approximately 20 US Rangers killed, 75 wounded & 1 captured alive, 1 Malaysian killed & 7 wounded, 1 soldier of my unit got a shrapnel wounded on his cheek but refused to go to hospital. Approx 1500 – 3000 Somali killed / wounded.
On 4th Oct, in the morning, the Subedar Major came to give the routine OK report, told me jubilantly that, “Americans are saluting our flag” (while passing through our camp). Once the platoon came back, I asked them in light mood that how was the night. They smiled, with glowing faces & shine in their eyes, in loud voices replied “Sir, we have rescued the American Rangers from Somali militia”.
The Hollywood has made Oscar winning award movie “Black Hawk Down”. The US Rangers action has been amply covered with exaggeration. I wish the action of Pakistani force should have been given due coverage. I shall not write much about US Rangers / Delta Force battle worthiness – for poor planning, execution & fighting abilities of the soldiers in battle field because, “A soldier should not disgrace a soldier”. But do give them credit for requesting Pakistan Army contingent to rescue them else they all would have been butchered by the hostile militia at night.
Pakistani Troops: Zindabad
Pakistan Army: Paindabad
The author participated in the operation. This article has been published here with permission.