Today In History: September 5th

September 5, 1993

On this day, seven Nigerian soldiers,surrounded by a stone-throwing mob were killed in a militia ambush in the war torn Somalia as they went to the aid of other UN peacekeepers.

This happened during an ambush in a neighbourhood of the capital inhabited by supporters of General Farah Aidid. Apart from the seven that were killed, at least six more were wounded, while one soldier, Umar Shantali, was held in captive.

The Nigerian soldiers came under heavy fire from both sides of the street as they were arriving at Checkpoint Pasta to replace Italian peacekeepers, who were being reassigned to the Somali countryside.

Residents  of the area claimed that the Nigerian soldiers had fired in the air to disperse an angry crowd surrounding their vehicle about half a mile from Checkpoint Pasta. They told the Nigerian commander to go away. They opened fire as the Nigerians tried to retreat. They got about half a mile before they were killed.

The Nigerian commander, Lieut. Col. Ola Oyinlola, accused the Italians of failing to fire “a single shot” when his soldiers were being attacked. The checkpoint was at the center of territory controlled by gunmen loyal to General Aidid, who had been accused of previous attacks on peacekeepers.

Colonel Oyinlola said two companies of Nigerian troops had been travelling to the checkpoint to man it with Italian troops for a few days before the Italians withdrew when his men were surrounded by a stone-throwing mob. Oyinlola said the Italians had made agreements on manning the checkpoint with local elders about which he knew nothing.

Oyinlola blamed such alleged Italian deal-making as a cause of the day’s attack, and they accused the Italian troops in the area of standing by as the Nigerian soldiers, who arrived at the checkpoint in open pickup trucks, being cut down by a torrent of automatic weapons fire.

Lt. Col. Ola Oyinlola said that the Italians deliberately left the Nigerians alone; there was no doubt about it.According to him, the Italians stationed near the ambush site refused to open fire to assist the Nigerian troops, and at one point in the firefight, they even asked the beleaguered Nigerians to move away from an Italian armored vehicle so as not to draw fire to it.

Although Somali residents said 20 to 30 Somalis were also killed in the attack, reporters at the scene said they only saw seven Nigerian bodies.

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