Mogadishu racked by ferocious street battles: Aspin says more US soldiers and armour are to be sent to Somalia

STREET battles of demonic ferocity killed or wounded an estimated 500 people in Mogadishu yesterday, one of the worst tolls the city has known. This time, however, at least 12 of the dead were United States soldiers, with 75 wounded. At least one American solider has been captured.

In Washington, the US Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, said an additional 200 infantry troops backed with tanks and armoured vehicles would be sent to Somalia to beef up the US contingent of peace-keepers.

Another Blackhawk helicopter was brought down by ground- fire. Two were shot down on Sunday night. When US infantry and Malaysian troops arrived to look for survivors, they came under heavy fire.

The battles continued as dusk fell last night. Steven Rifkind, of Save the Children Fund, contacted by satellite telephone, said that he had visited two hospitals earlier in the day. 'There were hundreds, hundreds,' he said, 'women, children, all with awful wounds. It was very bloody, very gory. The Somali staff were completely overwhelmed, exhausted . . . I never believed it would go as far as this.'

According to a Pentagon spokesman in Washington, the fighting started on Sunday evening when the US Quick Reaction Force detained 24 suspected members of General Mohamed Farah Aideed's militia in a 'search and seizure' operation east of the Bakhara market.

Major David Stockwell, the chief UN spokesman in Mogadishu, said that the operation was not aimed at searching for General Aideed but that several key members of his militia had been captured.

Two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down and a group of about 70 Rangers, the US Special Forces, were sent in to recover the wounded and the bodies.

As they were surrounding the helicopters they came under fire, and a task force of two US infantry companies and armoured personnel carriers manned by Malaysian and Pakistani troops were sent in to rescue them.

This force was also attacked. 'Regrettably there were a number of casualties among US forces in these engagements,' the Pentagon spokesman said. 'At this point we consider the operation to be ongoing,' he added.

The ensuing full-scale battle between the UN and the Somalis produced the sort of bloodshed and mayhem reminiscent of the 1992 battle for the city in which hundreds of thousands died. Heavy weapons fired at close range among flimsy cement or mud walls kill or maim people a mile away.

Western journalists in Mogadishu were unable to approach the fighting but saw truckloads of corpses driven away from the Bakhara market.

Somalis working for them said that they had seen the corpse of a white US soldier strapped to a barrow and paraded through the streets by a jubilant crowd of Somalis, and the burnt-out shells of four armoured personnel carriers believed to belong to Malaysian forces.

The charred hulk of a Blackhawk helicopter also lay shattered in the market, a maze of streets where the UN writ has never run and support for General Aideed remains strong.

Yesterday's events will accelerate the impetus in Washington for a speedy withdrawal of all US troops. President Bill Clinton is already under intense pressure to pull American troops out of Mogadishu and has said that the US forces will not be used in future except for emergency operations. This has drawn a sharp plea to stay from Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, who has no troops available to replace the Americans in Mogadishu. Any hint that the US-led UN force is about to pull out will undoubtedly raise the morale of General Aideed's fighters.

In Mogadishu, yesterday's fighting evinced a mood of despair. Mr Rifkind said: 'It came just at a time when we hoped we would get that awful time of the emergency behind us and sart concentrating on long-term development. Now I just don't know where it is going.'

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea