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Pull Up A Sandbag
Sandbag Reminiscences of Ken Hare Sandbag
My Brush With Death - Mogadishu 1994
On the 18th July 1994 I joined my boss the CMIO Colonel Vezallini and two of his associates Captains Senn and Silvatti along with 6 Malay Ranger escorts for what was to be an information collecting mission to units in the Port area. This patrol mission as I understood it had been lodged with U3 HQ UNISOM. However, following the scheduled visits I noted that we were headed North West towards the old Strongpoint 19. I was in the second vehicle of three with Silvatti, Senn and one escort. I questioned Silvatti as to where we were going, to which he replied the Pasta Factory. My response was is your boss fucking crazy, and reminded them that the previous day I had been to Strongpoint 19 with SIOC and was under no illusions that the road beyond to the Pasta Factory was a NO GO ZONE (I was to find out later that this part of the patrol had not been authorized).
Senn tried to reassure me that the boss knew what he was doing. It transpired that Senn and Silvatti were due to return home in two days after a year in Mogadishu and had been party to the Battle for Pasta and were going to see it again before they went home. (I was not happy). As we travelled through Strongpoint 19 it became clear we had entered the badlands. There were gunmen on every corner and we passed at least two technicals mounted with HMGs. I tried hard to smile at the locals who all stared at us as we went by. The only saving grace was that the street was busy which in my book meant things were as OK as they could be.
On arrival at Checkpoint Pasta everyone dismounted and had a look around, I had the video camera and took some footage. Remember this was the area where the Italians had lost a number of soldiers killed and wounded. The visit was short, some 15 minutes, and then we were back on the road. Again I was unhappy, as we were now the lead vehicle headed back along the same road we had just come up.
It was approx 15:10pm and we hadn’t gone more than 500m when I noted that there was not a soul in sight (alarm bells sounded in my head) then I spotted a Somali woman dragging a child into a doorway. The hair on the back of my neck rose, and I remember shouting (probably screaming) “Here we go”, at which point the windscreen disintegrated and I could taste the lead in the air as bullets passed my head. I must have turned my head left in reaction to the flying debris as rounds entered the car only to see several gunmen pop up from behind a low wall with weapons pointed in my direction. At this stage I am in the back seat on the left with my Steyer pointing out of the window and the safety off. In that split second I squeezed the trigger and whilst screaming at the top of my voice fired a complete magazine on automatic in the direction of the gunman who had just appeared. The noise was crazy, but in hindsight my screaming probably saved my eardrums, equalizing pressure whilst I was firing from inside the car.
Adrenalin had already taken over and I was now simply in reaction mode. As the last round left my Steyer and that awful empty metallic clunk was heard I somehow went from a sitting position to diving headlong to my right taking the Malayan escort and the right hand rear door with me landing flat on my back several metres from the car. At this point sparks and gravel were flying as rounds struck the ground around me. I then saw that my Steyer had jammed in the cars doorframe as I had exited the vehicle and I crawled quickly over to retrieve it.
At this point I observed Silvatti by the front wheel returning fire, and our Malaysian escort prone on the ground (he had been hit twice, in the arm and just above his knee) struggling to get a magazine on. Having retrieved my Steyer I got in as close as could to the back wheel of the car and started returning fire. The craziest thoughts went through my head that I was going to die here for a lousy $10 a day. These thoughts were compounded when rounds from a HMG began striking the car moving it a couple of inches backwards each time it was hit, throwing pieces of metal everywhere. Then the back wheel that had provided me with a semblance of cover dropped as the tyre exploded when a round passed within a centimeter of my right ear and struck it. An interesting observation at this stage was that the patrol members I could hear had reverted to using their own language.
We were now in serious trouble with lack of ammunition, at least one dead at this stage and as many as seven wounded. It was about this time I spotted Colonel Vezallinni dash out from behind his vehicle waving his arms in the air and shouting in Italian. Within seconds the shooting slowed then suddenly stopped. An eerie silence followed. Then I noticed Somalis breaking cover and creeping slowly towards us, with no ammunition left I sat up and just watched. In a matter of seconds I was being dragged to my feet, bashed about the head and had all my pockets, glasses and all the equipment I was wearing looted.
I remember very clearly a Somali wearing a mackintosh tied at the waist with rope thrusting a pistol into my right eye. He was shorter than me, with heavily stained teeth and red eyes. He kept screaming at me “American, American”. All the time I was being pulled pushed and punched. I was obviously in shock, was numb and had resigned myself to the fact that this was it. At this point I was distracted when a gunshot rang out to my right and I observed one of our Malaysian escorts (Gani) collapsing to the ground (he had been shot in the head). It suddenly got very noisy again (more shooting) as I was being dragged in the direction of a high wall. The crazy Somali with the pistol appeared to be arguing with others around me whilst still trying to get the gun to my head (later I found out a young Somali who’s name escapes me got rid of him). I now found myself in a courtyard being pushed towards a house door.
The crazy Somali had disappeared but the gunfire continued. I noticed that Silvatti was also being dragged in the same direction as me. I was pushed into a lounge room and ordered to sit, seconds later Silvatti joined me. I noticed the left side of Silvatti’s head was covered in blood as was his left shoulder. I waved at the guard on the door pointing to Silvattis head, then at me indicating I wanted to help. To my surprise it was agreed and I went over Silvatti. The head wound turned out to be a minor laceration of the scalp, it just bled a lot. There was however, a bullet wound to his shoulder but fortunately the round had gone straight through without striking bone (just looked like he had been stabbed with a pencil, entry and exit).
During this time a number of well dressed Somalis (in suites) entered the room to look at us then left. Later I was to be asked many questions about who we were, and why we had been in the area. I was told that there are people here who want to see you dead. I was also told I had been lucky, but my protection could not be guaranteed. Over several hours I was asked similar questions but never by the same person. One questioner stated we had been responsible for several deaths in the ambush, then proceeded to haul up his shirt to show me a healed bullet wound he said the Americans had given him.
Though still very shocked I managed convince my captors I had only been in Mogadishu a couple of weeks, was a clerical officer and was been shown around to support the UNs humanitarian effort. At about midnight other surviving members of the patrol were drip fed into the lounge area of this house. Two of the Malaysians had nasty gunshot wounds to lower back and hip areas and due to blood loss were in a bad way. All we could do was to keep them awake.
Colonel Vezalinne was the last to be brought in but had little to say. At this stage our captors produced a spaghetti dish but I got the impression not many of us were hungry. Again the suites kept appearing and disappearing after questioning other members of the patrol. In the early hours of the morning we were suddenly all told we were to be transported and handed over to the UN.
Out in the courtyard there was a beat up minibus and a ute. On the ute was the bodies of the two dead Malaysians (Garni and Azman), the two badly wounded were also loaded onto the same vehicle. The rest of us climbed into the battered bus and were ordered to stay quiet. When the gates of the courtyard were open I saw eight technical’s, 4 were to lead us with 4 more following behind.
Though it was dark the journey took us past the Olympic stadium then down town and along National Street, synonymous with Black Hawk down. On the street many barricades had to be negotiated, fires burned and the ever present gunmen stood in groups. Down town Mogadishu was definitely a UN military NO GO AREA. We then headed left down to K4 stopping some 300m from the gates of the UN base there. We were ordered out of the minibus and directed by the suites that had not travelled with us to walk the last 300 metres.
Helping each other we approached the gates which opened as we approached. There were many helping hands as we entered, and medics everywhere. I was taken to a spot under bright lights where I was inspected for injuries. It was not until this point I realized I too was damaged goods. I had lost a great deal of skin off my forearms and elbows, a piece of metal was plucked from my upper arm, I became acutely aware of bruising and nicks on other parts of my body. Those of us capable after running repairs began to show a great deal of emotion with lots of hugs and some tears and we also paid our respects to our fallen colleagues who lay on blood soaked mattresses in which they would soon be cocooned for the trip to the airfield morgue. As for the rest of us we were loaded into an APC and transported back to HQ UNISOM.
After brief meeting with the UN Military Commander, I went off to seek out Lt. Colonel Clive Lilly whose genuine support I will never forget both at the time and much later in HQ LF Command.
Sadly this was an event that should never have occurred. Complacency, arrogance and abuse of position had led to the deaths of two good soldiers. It was my hope that justice would follow. I am led to believe the CMIO was relieved of his command and returned to Italy (perhaps not enough).
Mogadishu 1994
Ken Hare & Peter Jackson - Mogadishu 1994

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