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1992: American marines land in Somalia

VIDEO : UN troops in humanitarian mission to Somalia

US troops have arrived in Somalia in a bid to aid thousands of starving locals.

The American marines landed just before dawn.

Their mission is to spearhead the arrival of 35,000 troops from a dozen countries assembled as part of a US led multi-national operation to crack down on looting and extortion that has prevented food getting through.

American forces were expecting to tackle hostile gunmen who have been holding the famine-stricken country to ransom in a conflict which has seen around 300,000 people killed in the last year ever since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted and local warlords took over.

But instead of fierce fighting, the marines were greeted by the world's media.

The first group of six to eight navy frogmen in Operation Restore Hope, came out of the sea on to the beach outside the Somali capital, Mogadishu under a full moon.

Later, three rubber boats came ashore and around 24 troops walked up through the dunes into the glare of television lights.

US Marines in armoured amphibious tractors from the USS Juneau then set about establishing beachheads for further arrivals of around 1,800 troops.

Their mission is to secure Mogadishu's airport and port areas so that food and medicine, which has been blocked by Somali gunmen, can be safely airlifted to thousands of locals dying of starvation.

About an hour after US troops landed, half a dozen unexplained gunshots were fired in a distant Mogadishu suburb.

Despite the attack, most of the city's streets remained relatively deserted.

Earlier in Washington, President-elect Bill Clinton could offer no ''artificial timetable'' for American withdrawal.

He added: "I respect and appreciate President Bush's desire to see the ground forces out of there by sometime in mid-January, and it may work out that that can be done.

"But the issue is whether the United States will have to keep these ground forces there longer than a few weeks. I think that depends on how long it takes to accomplish the mission."

Somalia's two top warlords, General Mohammed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohammed, urged their fighters to co-operate with US forces and keep away from the port and airport.

But Robert Oakley, US Special Envoy to Somalia, said he recently met both men and he believes that neither of them have full control over their gunmen.

According to the Pentagon, around 35 countries have offered to help the US operation with military or financial contributions.

Around 2,100 French troops are due to team up with the US forces.

In Context
US troops expected the mission to be over by mid-January but they remained in Somalia until March 1994.

Despite saving hundreds of thousands of lives in the early stages of occupation, their peace mission came to symbolise failure after a heavy firefight in October 1993 left 18 US troops dead and around 90 injured.

Between 350 and 1,000 Somali gunmen and civilians were also believed to have been killed in the attack.

The UN eventually withdrew all its forces in 1995 leaving Somalia with no government to take over.

Somalia still suffers from conflict, famine and economic collapse today.


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