Somalia Medal The Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia
A Soldier's Journals
Monday, July 23, 2018  

Somalia '93




 

A Night of Riots

17 February 93

We headed out on patrol early this morning exploring the many small villages in the hilly region east of the highway.  I am standing in for Tim on the radio so I get to ride in the crew commanders hatch.

I saw a strange animal today.  It was grey with black spots like a hyena, but had the body of a large cat.  It passed fairly close, but I did not get a good look at it as it disappeared in an instant.

We spent most of the afternoon resting in the shade as I talked to the interpreter about Somalia.  He argued strongly in favour of female circumcision, the oppression of women and about how every other race was inferior to the Somalis.  Most of his arguments were just based on a "because that's the way it is," but occassionally he would venture further and state that women have a sexual power over men that must be repressed and that women's sex drives are so high that circumcision is the only way they can remain faithful.  We are both so far apart in our beliefs that in the end we just had to agree to disagree.

. . . Shots rang out in the dark, somewhere a grenade went off. The radios sparked to life as reports went out and people tried to find out what was going on. In the dark street, illuminated only by the searchlights on our carriers, the crowds surrounding us were close, much too close.

We had been setting up a roadblock on the Mogadishu highway to search for weapons when the call came over the radio. Things were turning violent in Beled Weyne and Two Commando needed some help.  There have been many fatalities and demonstrations over the past few days, things are heating up.  Soon we found ourselves in the market, trying to set up a position on one of the two bridges in Beled Weyne. As darkness fell, we moved back the crowds, laid concertina wire to our flanks and began to picket the bridge. Earlier the crowds had turned on some of the troops. The result was one Somali killed and three others wounded. We did not expect the night to pass without incident.

Out of the dark and the crowds came the rocks. They winged off our carriers, helmets and flak jackets. We responded quickly and decisively, moving the crowds back and singling out the culprits. Speed and discipline won out over violence, apparently they didn't want to tempt fate as they had earlier in the day. Then came the shots and the grenade blast. The radios buzzed as everyone tried to piece together what was going on. With a shot report from one callsign and a sighting from another, eventually the pieces began to fall into place. For once the violence wasn't directed at us. It turned out to be a failed attack on the Red Cross compound nearby. Luckily no-one was injured and the situation ended as quickly as it had started.

We settled down to wait out the night, peering into the darkness and the crowd. We watched for the kid with the grenade instead of a rock, or the sniper in the shadows. You never know when it will happen. You must always be on guard.

Boredom eventually took over though, after all the troops will be troops. It all started with a simple wager and feeling overly adventurous, Sgt Veary took the bet. It seemed easy enough, all he had to do was sit on a donkey. He didn't anticipate Sgt Laidlaw whacking the beast across the butt with his rifle though. It was quite the sight, Sgt Veary screaming down an alley on the back of a mad donkey. He looked like some crazy rodeo star. He leaned forward to prevent getting bucked off backwards, but once again anticipated wrong. The donkey outsmarted him and came screeching to a halt while lowering its head. Sgt Veary went flying head over heels into the dirt.

Assuming that he and the donkey had shared a meaningful moment and were now good friends, Sgt Veary gave the donkey a big warm hug. He was wrong again - a swift kick of hoof to shin sent Sgt Veary hopping down the alley holding his leg and cursing up a storm. It wasn't his night.

Later, a local police constable came to us for help. Fifteen armed bandits were robbing stores on the main street and the police were powerless to do anything. We sent out a small patrol to assist, backed by the carriers of another callsign. The bandits heard the carriers coming though and fled. We didn't capture any of them, but at least they were stopped.

Eventually the crowds drifted away and we were able to spell each other off. I curled up in the filth at the edge of the street with the asses and dogs, pistol in hand, and slept.

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