By Mark Bowden
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
November 24, 1997
ON THE CROWDED STREETS people surged with anger around Mike Durant's crashed Blackhawk. They wanted to kill these Americans who had fallen from the sky and opened fire on their friends and neighbors. And despite furious gunfire from the soldiers around the downed helicopter, people continued to move in that direction.
In the months since the Rangers came, they had been swooping over the city at all hours of the night and day, blowing the tin roofs off houses and roping in to shoot and arrest Habr Gidr clan leaders. It was an insult to Somalia. On this day all the hatred had come to a boil, and many were already dead.
At the wreck site, Delta Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon were fending off the crowd, waiting for the promised rescue convoy of ground troops. Yousuf Dahir Mo'Alim, the neighborhood militia leader, had been trying to keep the angry crowd back. Now he didn't have to work as hard. The Somalian bodies strewn around the clearing and the deadly accurate fire from the Americans did that.
Mo'Alim stayed back himself. There was time. The Americans were surrounded. He waited until about a dozen of his men joined him, and then they fanned out to find good positions for a coordinated assault.
On the side of the helicopter he could see, there were two soldiers and a pilot who were firing. Another American lay dead or badly wounded. At Mo'Alim's signal, his men opened fire all at once on the Americans. After a furious exchange of fire that lasted at least two minutes, the Americans stopped firing. The crowd followed Mo'Alim and his men into the clearing.
The mob descended on the Americans. Only one was still alive. He shouted and waved his arms as the mob grabbed him by the legs and pulled him away, tearing at his clothes. People with knives hacked at the bodies of the dead Americans. Others in the crowd pulled and tore at the dead men's limbs. Soon people were running, shouting and cackling, parading with parts of the Americans' bodies.
When Mo'Alim ran around the tail of the helicopter, he was startled to find two other Americans. One, stretched on the ground, looked badly wounded or dead. The other, a pilot, was still alive. The man did not shoot. He set his weapon on his chest and folded his hands over it.
BASHIR HAJI YUSUF was disgusted and ashamed by what he saw. The bearded lawyer had come down to the Bakara Market after the shooting to witness and photograph the aftermath. Bodies had been pulled off the streets, but he saw dead donkeys on the road, bloated and stiff. A great deal of damage had been done to buildings around the crash site nearest the Olympic Hotel. Map of Mogadishu and the crash sites He was snapping pictures of the helicopter wreckage when he heard the sounds of an excited crowd and ran to it. The Somalis had a dead American soldier draped across a wheelbarrow.
Bashir stayed on the fringes of the angry crowd. He snapped a few pictures. Then the people took the body of the soldier from the wheelbarrow and began dragging it in the dirt. Women were screaming curses, and the men were shouting and laughing.
The lawyer wanted to stop it. He wanted to step up to the men with the ropes and remind them that the Koran teaches respect for the dead. But he was afraid for himself so he stayed back. These people were wild with anger and revenge. It was a festival of blood. He followed the crowd for a few blocks, then slipped away and went home.
A contingent of Saudi Arabian soldiers in U.N. vehicles encountered the crowd pulling the dead American by the K-4 Circle. The crowd had grown quite large.
``What are you doing?'' asked one of the Saudi soldiers, clearly shocked.
``We have Animal Howe,'' one of the young Somalian ringleaders said, referring to the hated American U.N. administrator, retired Adm. Jonathan Howe.
``This is an American soldier,'' one of the Saudis said. ``If he is dead, why are you doing this? Aren't you a human being?''
One of the Somalis pointed his rifle at the soldier. ``We will kill you, too,'' he said.
Some in the crowd began shouting at the Saudis: ``Leave here! Leave it alone! The people are angry. They might kill you.''
``But why do you do this?'' the soldier demanded. ``You can fight and the Americans can fight, but this man is dead. Why do you drag him?''
Angry men in the crowd again threatened the Saudis, who climbed back into their vehicles and left.
At the hangar in Mogadishu, the men had watched the dead soldier being dragged through the streets. They crowded into the back room and watched it replay on the screen. No one said a word. Some of the men turned away. The pilots wanted to mow them down, just mow them all down, land, and recover the body. But the commanders said no. There was a big crowd around the body. It would be a massacre.
Bill Cleveland’s corpse being dragged naked
For me this is the ultimate humiliation story/picture ever.. People spat and poke at his naked body while his corpse is paraded in a busy market. What a sad way to go.
At 5:40, the Somalis overtook the crash site of the Super Six Four and killed Cleveland, Field, Frank, Shughart, and Gordon. Through the intervention of Somali Hassan Yassin Abokoi, Durant was spared so that he could later be used for propaganda purposes. He was, however, brutally beaten by the mob.
Finally, at 1:55 in the morning of October 4, a small portion of a giant rescue convoy arrived at the Super Six Four crash site. However, they found no trace of the crew or the defending snipers.
By mid-morning, the angry Somali mob had defiled the corpses of Cleveland, Field, and Shughart. Lawyer Bashir Haji Yusuf snapped photographs of his fellow Somalis as they jeered and dragged the bodies through the streets of Mogadishu ("The True Story..."). Among the photos widely circulated in the American media were ghastly images of Cleveland's white, nearly naked corpse being kicked and stomped along the way (Church). Other reports indicated that the bodies of Shughart and Field were those actually dragged through the streets while Cleveland's corpse was paraded in a handcart--"tied up and trundled through the streets on a wheelbarrow by about 200 cheering Somalis," according to an article in The Washington Post (Richburg). For whatever reasons, producers of the movie Black Hawk Down chose not to reconstruct this particular scene ("Black Hawk Down: The Movie").
Subsequent autopsies performed on the bodies of all five Americans killed near the Super Six Four may have brought some small measure of comfort to their families: according to Army officials, the autopsies indicated that the men had been shot dead before their corpses were desecrated ("Army...").
For full story please visit:
While the Somalis are portrayed as seeming sub-human and animal-like, the US soldiers also seemed to lack humanity, merging with body armor, goggles, helmets, and other machinery (BHD 81). Some Somalis liked to unmask and de-armor such US soldiers. For example, when they found the pilot Durant, they tore his clothes off, looking for concealed weapons (BHD 196). That Somalis were able to commit cruel acts is also part of the story—not all were innocents. Hassan Yassin Abokoi saw a mob descend on US soldiers who had been in a crashed helicopter. "He saw his neighbors hack at the bodies of the Americans with knives and begin to pull at their limbs. He then saw people running and parading with parts of the American’s bodies," as if they were trophies (BHD 195). And of course, there’s the infamous image of Black Hawk crew chief Bill Cleveland’s corpse being dragged naked through the streets by a gloating crowd of Somalis (BHD 260, 292). Certainly this glee about the dismemberment or the exposure of a dead body is deplorable. But the US side also mutilated bodies, with automatic weapons instead of handheld knives. Bowden describes how the Rangers laughed when one woman was shot so severely she "no longer even looked like a human being"
News reports from Mogadishu, quoting Toronto Star photographer Paul Watson, said the bodies of dead American soldiers littered the scene of the fighting, with the bloodied corpse of one U.S. serviceman being dragged through the streets by ropes tied to his feet, and another dead serviceman stripped naked and surrounded by a gleeful Somali mob chanting "Victory!" and telling reporters, "Come look at the white man."
In another case, the corpse of an American soldier was said to have been tied up and trundled through the streets on a wheelbarrow by about 200 cheering Somalis, Reuter news agency reported, quoting Western journalists in the capital.