Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu, has a long history stained with blood and conflict. It’s the country’s largest city, and it seems that any headlines regarding the place always include some kind of gruesome bloodshed. It’s like the city has never found a moment of peace to catch its breath. Reports have just come in of a massive truck bomb that decimated a hotel in the capital, rocking the city to its core.
Prior to the beginning of the civil war in 1986, the city still had a rocky history–Somalia gained independence from its colonial ancestors in the 1960s, and a political assassination, a coup d’état (albeit a bloodless one), the Ogaden War and a rebellion–all in the last 60 years. These events sparked off the Somali civil war, a conflict that continues today. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that the fighting has displaced well over a million people throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands have died as a result.
A totalitarian government was born in the ’80s under the leadership of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, and like similar governments he closed himself off and kept to those closest to him. He punished the opposition by bombing-major-population-centers. This obviously did not sit well with many, so a group by the name of the United Somali Congress (USC) surrounded Mogadishu and essentially laid it under siege with General Barre inside. They fought their way into Mogadishu, and after four long weeks of bloodshed and destruction, they were able to topple the authoritarian government that was so deeply rooted in that city.
There was a vacuum in power after General Barre was taken down. The remaining government became divided into all sorts of differing ideologies and factions. One such group was led by the infamous General Mohamed Farah Aidid, and they all fought to take the seat of power in Mogadishu.
This brings us to the “Battle of Mogadishu” that is portrayed in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. American Special Operations forces fought a fierce battle through the city as two of their helicopters were shot down; Ambassador Robert Oakley estimated 1,500-2,000 Somalis killed and wounded in that single battle. While we’re on the topic of Mogadishu’s conflict-heavy history, many people call this particular battle the “First Battle of Mogadishu” since there were eight more after that, involving all sorts of violent forces, from the Ethiopian government to Islamic insurgents to more local factions. The last of such battles ended in 2011.
Mogadishu has suffered for a long time, and as another bomb rips through the capital we are reminded that they are still in desperate need of peace.
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.