Did the U.S. Cover Up a Civilian Massacre Before Black Hawk Down?


Christian was nodding off in the back of a Black Hawk helicopter when he heard the first explosion.

“I remember thinking to myself, that was big… it had to be Americans,” he told The Daily Beast. “Nobody else had that kind of firepower in Somalia.”

He’d been orbiting the skies above Mogadishu since 2 a.m. on July 12, 1993, a “pretty uneventful” day for his unit until he saw thick smoke billowing in the near distance. Christian felt more explosions pound his chest. Ten U.S. attack helicopters pumped 16 missiles and over 2,000 rounds of cannon fire into the second floor of a house, the Abdi house, blowing out the stairwell that prevented people from escaping, and then blasting the building apart.

“It blew the whole goddamn building,” said Christian, who requested anonymity even now because aspects of the operation remain classified and he has no authorization to speak about them. “I don’t think whoever ordered that strike could have reasonably expected not to have [civilian] casualties.”

It was 10:18 a.m. and “Operation Michigan” was under way.

U.S. forces were hunting General Mohamed Aidid, a Somali warlord on whose head the United Nations and the United States had just put a $25,000 bounty. They wanted him arrested on charges he was responsible for the June 5 ambush and killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers assigned to the U.N. Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II), a peace enforcement mission involving active combat and nation-building. The midsummer aerial attack, which was lauded as highly successful by the U.S. military, was seen as retaliation for the recent escalating violence. But instead of the Aidid war council they sought, U.S. forces attacked a peace meeting.

The disproportionate use of force and the violation of human rights and humanitarian law resulted in overwhelming civilian casualties at a time when the U.N. and U.S. were not at war with Somalia. The Abdi house attack became widely regarded as a symbol of the U.N./U.S. loss of direction in Somalia, from humanitarian champion to mass murderer.