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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 17:21 GMT
Warlord thumbs down for Somalia film
Shot from Black Hawk Down
The film is accused of exaggerating US heroism
A Somali warlord has gone to see the Hollywood blockbuster, Black Hawk Down, which portrays his arrest by United States troops and says many of the facts are wrong.

Warlord Osman Ali Atto
Warlord Osman Ali Atto is unhappy at his character in the film
In the movie, Osman Ali Atto is portrayed as an obstinate, earring wearing, cigar smoking character.

But the former financier for warlord General Farah Aideed looks nothing like that in real life.

"I am not smoking cigars, I have no earring on my ears," he told the BBC's Hassan Barise in Mogadishu.

No justice

He said that he feels that the movie has not done justice to himself and to Somali society.

Mr Atto was arrested during the ill-fated Operation Restore Hope when 140 elite US soldiers attempted to abduct two top lieutenants of General Aideed.

But by the end of the exercise, 18 Americans were killed, hundreds of Somalis lost their lives and thousands were injured.

My rights have been violated and so (the rights of) many other Somali leaders and the people of Somali

Osman Ali Atto
Somali warlord

Ironically, Osman Ali Atto now lives only 300 metres away from the embassy compound of the US, his former arch-enemies.

He had a video of Black Hawk Down on his table just next to his chair.

His brown leather shoes seemed to have been especially made to accommodate his injured right heel. He was involved in a landmine explosion in 1994.

Historic house

Mr Atto was in this very house when he was arrested by US soldiers in October 1993.

US troops in Somalia
Critics say the film belittled Somalis

While the film-makers describe Black Hawk Down as based on a true story, Mr Atto said that most of the scenes did not reflect the whole truth.

"First of all when I was caught on 21 September, I was only travelling with one Fiat 124, not three vehicles as it shows in the film," he commented.

"And when the helicopter attacked, people were hurt, people were killed.

"The car we were travelling in, (and) I have got proof, it was hit at least 50 times. And my colleague Ahmed Ali was injured on both legs.

It is not right

"I think it was not right, the way they portrayed both the individual and the action. It was not right, " Mr Atto said.

They wanted to squeeze as much information as possible and I was not ready to provide such information to them

Osman Ali Atto
In the film, Mr Atto was portrayed as a very stubborn character who does not give in to the US interrogators. On this point, he agreed.

" Well you know, during the interrogation at the airport and on the island where I had been kept, yes there was hard interrogation by the CIA or whoever, and obviously they wanted to squeeze as much information as possible and I was not ready to provide such information to them," he said with pride.


To some extent he seemed to agree that the movie, with all its shortcomings, is not entirely misleading.

"Yes, that shows that something that has happened is being shown."

US Black Hawk over Mogadishu
Hundreds of Somalis were wounded or killed

Traditionally, only Somali women wear earrings and our correspondent says it is unimaginable to see men with earrings.

Many Somalis who have seen the movie say that the film does not in any way portray Somali culture, be it music or even words from the Somali language.

Many writers and film producers have to do a lot of research before releasing their books or films.

But Mr Atto says that no one had approached him prior to the making of Black Hawk Down.

"I don't recall myself that somebody has interviewed me in this regard and I have never given neither written nor verbal authorisation to anybody."

"My rights have been violated and so (the rights of) many other Somali leaders and the people of Somali", Mr Atto concluded, with some sadness in his voice.

Somali warlord, Osman Ali Atto
"I am not smoking cigars and I have no earrings"
See also:

21 Jan 02 | Reviews
Black Hawk Down: Your views
18 Jan 02 | Reviews
Black Hawk focuses on war
22 Jan 02 | Film
US attacks 'could be filmed'
21 Dec 01 | Africa
Somalia's role in terror
23 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Somalia
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