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
. . . 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
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
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