IAF Contingent in Somalia

The IAF took part in peacekeeping duties in Somalia from 01 Oct 93to 21 Dec 94as part of the Indian contingent supporting UN operations.

Historical Background
The downfall of president Said Barra in Jan 91 resulted in a power struggle and clan clashes. By Nov 91, the situation had deteriorated to an extent where death and destruction forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes and caused the need for emergency humanitarian assistance. Added to this severe malnutrition and related diseases caused the death of approximately 3,00,000 people.

On 22 Apr 92, in response to a recommendation by the Secretary General, the Security Council adopted resolution No. 751 (1992) by which it established UNOSOM.
Indian Contingent
The first batch of troops landed in the capital city of Mogadishu on 28 Aug 93. The induction was completed by 22 Oct 93. The Indian hospital and aviation was operational immediately. The Indian contingent formally took charge of its area of responsibility on 13 Nov 93.
Air Operation
IAF helicopters were utilised for the following tasks :-

  • Road opening and convoy escorting.
  • Aerial Recce.
  • Casualty Evacuation.
  • Communication.

Battle Casualties
On 08 Dec 94 at 1730 hrs a rocket propelled grenade fired by Somalia militia during inter clan fighting exploded on the roof of the barrack which housed IAF officers. In the explosion, two officers and an airman were injured.

Brief Diary of Events
Prior to departure the two Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) helicopter fired 12 missiles at Pokhran and the results were encouraging. The pre departure planning had to be meticulous. It started with the Govt sanction for IAF personnel to participate in the UN mission. Various items had to be brought like unit diary, visitors book, stamps for office appointments, stickers, unit mementoes, DO Pad, uniform, overall stitching with unit badges. The list was endless which needed many rounds of brainstorming at various levels.
The two helicopters along with the first batch of fifteen personnel were ferried out in an AN-12 from Delhi to Mogadishu on 01 Oct 93. The remaining personnel went subsequently on 06 Oct 93and 10 Oct 93. The two helicopters were provided by 111 HU. A special Army train carried all the stores of the IAF element along with stores of the Indian Brigade. One officer and four airmen were sent along as escorts. At Bombay the stores were containerised and shipped to Mogadishu. The IAF detachment had 9 Officers, 22 other ranks and 3 NCs(E). Two Gypsies, One Nissan mini coach and a Nissan truck comprised the MT support.
The first sortie in Somalia was launched within an hour of their arrival from India when Helicopters were ferried to a helipad in the Indian camp named "Lal Quila". On 12 Oct 93the first operational sortie was undertaken with the Brigade Commander and his Deputy on board to recce the area of responsibility in and around Baidoa which was to be the Bridage's permanent location. The pilot must have thanked the people in Air HQ who provided them with the GPS (Global Positioning System) which is a navigational aid. Without this aid it would have been difficult to navigate in the featureless Somalia country.
Republic day was celebrated with much pomp and show. The flypast put up by the IAF and Air OP was much appreciated and they had to do it all over again.
In February the unit gave air cover to the Mahar battalion who were escorting 500 refugees from Mogadishu to their villages.
In March, some bandits attacked a convoy and the soldiers of the Mahar regiment fired back and killed some. In a twist of circumstances the Indian helicopters had to save lives of the bandits by providing them casualty evacuation services.
The Indian contingent had its share of tragedies trying to stem the war in Somalia. On 22 Aug two dozen Mahar soldiers were ambushed. Seven including a JCO lost their lives. On 28 Aug 94three medical officers of the Field Ambulance unit were killed.

The first batch of 10 IAF personnel were de-inducted on 14 Dec 94. The last batch left on 20 Dec 94. Cpl Nasir was left as a lying casualty due to injuries sustained in the RPG explosion. Critical stores were de-inducted on 19 Dec 94by AN-124 contracted by the UN. Bulky stores were brought by ship Mogadishu.

The Indian contingent used a humanitarian approach. They took various projects like vocational training, Vet training, food for work, adopting an orphanage, organising cultural functions, and shorts events with local teams. This had an effect on unemployed population and they channelled their energies from banditry to useful work.
Indians took pains to learn the Somalia culture, customs, language and respect their religion. Without taking sides all conflicts within the Indian AOR were settled amicably by discussion rather than force.
Indian Brigade formed a musical group consisting of both Indian Army Band and Somalia singers. This created a sense of pride in the Somalies.
The IAF took part in a UN peacekeeping mission after a gap of 30 years. Owing to good planning and foresight the mission was well executed and the IAF element was able to keep the IAF flag flying high.

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