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Issue 493 -- 9th - 15th July 2011
The Battle For Hargeysa - 31 May 1988
The war that SMN movement has waged inside the borders of Somaliland, and particularly aimed at Hargeysa and Burao was a direct and natural product of the April 1988 Agreement concluded between Siyad Barreh of Somalia and Mengisto of Ethiopia, which was mediated by Hassan Guled of Djibouti . The central theme of the agreement dictated that the two governments should not support the opposition groups of each side. The purpose of the dictator of Somali at that time, Siyad Barreh, regarding this agreement was to eliminate SNM Movement which was then the only armed group that was active in the Somalia Region following the disintegration of SSDF movement. As part of the implementation of this agreement, the Ethiopia government asked SNM high command that their army should move about 15Km into the Ethiopian territory and away from the borders of Somalia. This Ethiopian decision meant that SNM should stop its military operations against the Siyad Barreh regime. The agreement that was concluded by Siyad Barreh of Somalia and Mengesito of Ethiopia has brought about total confusion and frustration amongst the commanders, and the units of SNM. The moral of the population supporting the movement was also in total doldrums. The situation was signified by gloom, despair and confusion. The options and alternative courses of action have suddenly narrowed and the movement faced the possibility of ending its aspirations which centered on toppling the Siyad Barreh regime and set up a free and democratic society.
At that juncture of time, SNM and its supporter had to make tough decisions to turnaround the challenges dictated by this ill-fated agreement. They either had to end the armed struggle or embark on gorilla warfare in side the main cities, which at that time, amounted to pure gambling as the balance of power leaned significantly in favor of Siyad Barreh Forces who were better trained, more equipped and had the resources to engage in a prostrated warfare. In response to this tense situation, a General Meeting was organized by the SNM Central Command and attended by Operation Committee, The Central Committee, the Military Leadership, Sultans, and other Traditional Leaders, Elders, and the Intellectuals. This emergency meeting was held in the place called Dhoobo-Guduud. The time was short and the intention was to hold a meeting that would not adjourn until tangible and substantial conclusions have been enacted and agreed upon. After lengthy deliberations and extensive evaluation of the situation and its impact on the fate of the people at large, SNM Leadership and the movement supporters decided on the notion of GUUL AMMA GEERI (Victory or Death) . They decided to engaged in all-out- war against the dictatorship of Siyad Barreh inside the borders of the Somali territories and to place the cause and fate of the nation at the disposal of its lawful owners – the people of Somaliland. The clouds of blood and death hovered over the venue of the meeting, while at the same time, the aroma of victory and liberation filled the air. The meeting has appointed a War Committee which was assigned to expedite and speed up the preparations for the war and also to drawdown the strategy of the upcoming conflict. The High Command of the SNM movement in this regard was comprised of the follow:
1. Mujahid Jama Ali Elimi : Chainman ( Minister of Defense of SNM Movement)
2. Mujahid Mohammed Kaahin Ahmed ( SNM commander of Gaashaammo Base)
3. Mujahid Abdulsalam Haji Abdullahi ( Ex Minster of Defense – SNM )
4. Hassan Younis Habane ( The commander in chief of SNM Army )
5. Mujahid Abdullahi Ahmed Ali ( Senior Military Officer )
The war strategy and operating plan were hastily put together and the War Zone was divided into two Main Regions:
· The Eastern Zone which was named Madina Division and comprised of the 1st Battalion, and 2nd battalion (also known as Tawakul).
· The Western Zone which was named Makkah Division and made up of Sayid Ali Battalion, Sayid Omar Battalion, 20th Battalion , Barkad Battalion, San'ani Battalion, and 5th battalion, which faced the City of Gabiley under the command of Mujahid Mahdi Ali.
On 29th May 1988 units selected from Sayid Ali battalion and Barkad Battalion led by Mujahid Hussein Dheere (the commander of Sayid Ali) attacked the enemy positions in Adadlay. Thereafter, Sayid Ali Battalion led by Mujahid Mohammed Ali also fulfilled the famous convert operation which attacked Mandheera Prison and freed a large number of civilian inmates, which the enemy has indiscriminately detained from Hargeysa and Burao following SNM attack of the city of Burao on 27 May1988.
The SNM forces that attacked Hargeysa were first collected in two locations: Kaba-Qorray and Caraan-Carray and then grouped at a place called Balli-Samatar, which was the point of Embracement to Hargeysa. The number of this army was about 1400 Mujahid with extremely high-spirit and boosted morale. In an interview with Haatuf-News, Mujahid Abdurrahman Aw Ali stated : "when we embarked from Bali-Samatar which is adjacent to the border, one would imaged that we were on our way to a wedding ceremony as, at that point in time, relieve and delight filled the faces of the soldier of the SNM Army."
The SNM army moved on 20 trucks. The heavy military equipment they had was meager and comprised of 13 piece as follows: One piece of ZUU 23, Two pieces of ZGU ( anti aircraft), Two pieces of Army jeeps, One armored personal carrier( APC) , One SK 43 Gun, One IBM 21 Gun , One Baroon, Gun, Three Grand B Guns , and One Anti-Tank 57 Gun. They prayed Salat AlDuhur and AlMaghrib joined together in Bali-Samatar and commenced their attack at about 1:30 PM of 31May1988.
The route they took was Daba-Tahan and after a short while they crossed the Border taking an unmarked route which crosses through the forest of Sayla. After crossing the border, they dismounted the trucks and from there embarked on-foot. During this early morning movement several artillery shells were aimed at them but they did not respond and continued with the movement forward to their designated target of Hargeysa. Enemy aircraft was hovering in the air and they could also interrupt enemy radio communications exchanging information and gathering intelligence about their whereabouts, their numbers, equipment, with some enemy commanders demanding that the SNM should be let in. Before sunset, they could hear the roaring sounds of tanks moving towards their positions from the side of Gadhka-yogol. However, when they reached the place called Masallaha, which is a plateau about 10KM to the south of Hargeysa, the SNM forces witnessed their first major engagement with well-equipped large enemy units armed with tanks. At Masallah a fierce battle was waged between the justices-seeking martyrs of SNM and army units of Siyad Barreh Dictatorship. The plan of the Faqash was to contain the SMN army at that point and surrounding them. Mujahid Ibrahim Dhagawayne in an interview with Haatuf-News back in 2003 described the situation of that long night as follows: " we spent the night at that point up to 10: PM, heavy rain pored followed by total darkness. We had no communication gear and we were surrounded from the front and the rear sides. The enemy plan was to hold us there until dawn after which we could be surrounded and exterminated with the help of daylight". However, in order avert this scenario and to circumvent the enemy strategy, the SNM Military Commanders who were bestowed with renowned military tactics, opted to leave two companies of 20th Battalion at that position to engage and defeat the enemy at that position. The idea was to deal with the attacking enemy which was already there, and at the same time, deal with the enemy reinforcements that would attack from enemy units stationed along the borderline to the south. On the other hand, the two battalions of Sayid Omer and San'ani and the remaining companies of 20th battalion were commanded to move forward to Hargeysa. In addition, the mechanized units (technico) were also ordered to take another route which goes through Hagal to the North West. The SNM army then started on-foot charge taking shelter of the darkness of that long and rainy night, switching off the engines of their equipment to avoid making unnecessary noises that might alerts their enemy.
They continued on with this crawling exercise until at about 12:00 midnight when they reached the place known as Sheikh Omar, which is located at the south western tip of Hargeysa. There, the army rested for a while and everybody has raised their hands in an emotionally charged prayers asking ALLAH to avenge them against their oppressive enemy and the bestow victory upon them. At that point, the final instructions were given to charge and attack the enemy Regional Headquarters in Hargeysa.
In the early morning and at precisely at 2:30 AM, SNM forces made it to Haafadda Isha-Boorame District of Hargeysa where the enemy Regional Headquarters is located (at present the Headquarter in Somaliland Ministry of Defense. They also attacked the British-Built famous Bir-Jeeh Fortress, Darawish (National Guard) Headquarters, and the Military Officer Club. The distance between the dedicated young men from SNM and the Faqash hardly exceeded as far as the eye could see.
The Faqash army that faced the attacking SNM forces was comprised of the second brigade of 26Th division of the Somali Republic Armed Forces who were well prepared for the battle having been aware of the attack ever since the SNM forces took over the city of Burao five days earlier. They consolidated their defense positions and dug their trenches. The Second Brigade of Faqash army was comprised of the 5Th battalion which was stationed in Gabiley, and the 50th battalion in Gumburaha, 87 the battalion in Bali-Shiire and 661st Artillery Battalion which was scattered amongst the above other battalions. The Second Brigade was also supported by Tanks battalion stationed in Gabilay and air Defense Company stationed in Hargeysa. In addition, the Second Division had a reserve of 6 army ordinance made up of One BM 13, Three MB 21 and three machines equipped with BM21. The 16th battalion which composed of 24 Tanks of version 55 and 54 was also scattered between Gabilay and Dararwayne. The 26th Division Headquarters also included Darawish Battalion, Military police battalion, Mines Company, Communication Company, logistics, Corps of Engineers, Army ordinance Maintenance, artillery Training, and the 4th company Rockets which was based in the Massallaha, Waraabe Salaan and Berbera. The enemy also had an Air force squadron equipped with 3 operational Mig Jet planes, and among the pilots on duty were Mufo, Yousuf Waraabe, and others. The 24th battalion military ordinance composed of 23 APC and 23 Field Artillery (106mm).
The SMN forces at first attacked the headquarters of the 26th division of Faqash. When they reach a distance of about one Kilometer from the Headquarters, the first shots were fired from the Faqash side and that event marked the beginning of the Battle for Hargeysa on 31 May 1988. During that night, merciless and horrific battle ensued; the entire city was shaken by the roar of explosions coming from the various weaponry being fired by both sides in a merciless and horrific manner, while the shells coming from the heavy machineguns turned the darkness of the night into virtual daylight. The smell of the ammunition filled the air. At certain locations where the confrontations were intense, clouds of dark smoke rose up in the sky as far as the eye could see. The SMN forces literally overran the 2nd Division of the Faqash Forces and occupied the Regional Headquarters, Birjeeh Fortress, Darawish Headquarter, Police headquarters, and Military Officer Club, and the City Power Station.
General Morgan and his lieutenants in a frightened and disorganized mood escaped towards the airport. Large military units from the 1st Battalion of the 26th Division of the enemy were also poring from the western cities of Gabilay and Borame. Total confusion ensued and the two sides inter-mingled to a degree that it has become impossible to differentiate between the warring sides of SNM and Faqash.
At dawn, when you could differentiate between man and tree (as the Somali Proverb says) the SNM forces commenced crossing the valley of Hargeysa in an organized fashion and regrouped towards the Northern side of the valley moving systematically from the Sha’ab District (west ) of the city . They ran into Faqash reinforcements, and there started a bloody battle where SNM forces literally crushed the enemy reinforcements. At about6:30 AM the shooting suddenly died down.
The SMN forces continued crossing further to the North side of the City, crossing through the districts of Gol-Janno and Hera-Awr and re-grouped in defense positions around the Radio Hargeysa and Hawadleh district of the city
The population of Hargeysa spent a sleepless night as they were eager to witness what has actually transpires throughout this long and fearful night and the outcome of the bloody battle that SMN forces waged against the forces of Faqash inside the city. In the early morning, the residents of Hargeysa opened eyes to see an entirely different scene. For the first time in history, units of SNM who were mostly comprised of young men of mostly less than 25 of age were moving in groups and dressed in light-blue uniforms and some in dark-green camouflage. Among the forces appeared their commanders who grew long beards and dressed in long coats. The residents of Hargeysa warmly welcomed the SNM forces and the mood of that day wad one of delight, hope and mixed expectations, and even celebrations. Women rushed to the positions of SMN forces offering food and drinks. It also happened that certain women even provided food and drinks to the Faqash thinking them SNM units. In more dramatic scene, it also happened that certain emotional women offered food to the Faqash soldiers guarding Radio Hargeysa thinking they were SNM soldiers
From that day onwards, thousands of young men joined SNM forces and some people started to block the roads that they thought would be taken by the faqash reinforcements in their counterattack against SNM. A common saying was that " Mother we cannot differentiate between you, but be vicarious", describing an elderly woman wishing victory to the SNM boys, but yet not sure and scared they might be Faqash soldiers. The SNM forces were armed with AK 47 assault rifles with foldable stock which the SNM dubbed as Nuur Madoobe (or Black Nur). Hanging from their chests, they also wore Ammunition cartilages with three cases of small arms pullets, and hand grenades of version F1. Furthermore, on their hips, hang plastic bags containing Chapatti (Sabayad). Some of them carried rocket propellers guns known as LAW, which was a hand carried anti-tanks missile launcher. Every unit was also accompanied by militants armed with ammunition chains for machine guns of the version known as PKM, while others carried anti APC (Beebee) missile propellers (Bazooka), with its ammunition carried on their shoulders.
The SNM Forces that attacked INSIDE Hargeisa on the 31st May 1988 comprised principally of Siyad Omar Battalion, 20Th Battalion, San’ani Battalion, who were part of the Western Front known as Makkah Division. It is worth noting here that Sayid Ali Battalion , and Barkad Battalion fought in Adadlay and Mandheera Prison , while 2 companies of the 20th battalion was left over at Masallaha to deal with Faqash reinforcement there. The senior commanders of the force that attacked Hargeisa were as follows:
1. Mujahid: Ibrahim Abdullahi Hussein (Dhagawyne): Division Commander in chief
2. Mujahid: Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim (Dayib-Guaray) Division Abbandule
3. Mujahid: Abdillahi Askar: Division Operation commander
The other senior military officers of Makkah division were:
1. Mujahid Mouse Bihi Abdi
2. Mujahid Abdularahman Aw Ali Farah
3. Mujahid Aden Dhama – Artillery Commander.
4. Mujahid Abdulrahman Ahmed Hersi ( Hunsho)
5. Mujahid Ahmed Waysa- Adde
6. and other senior Officers
A reconnaissance covert unit comprising of 18 Mujahid was already operational inside Hargeysa under the leadership of:
1. Mujahid Mohammed Yousuf( Gama-dheere)
2. Mujahid Ali Mohammed Yousuf ( Ali Guray )
The structure of Sayid Omar Battalion was as follows;
1. Mujahid Mohammed Elmi Samatar – Battalion Commander
2. Mujahid Mohammed Hassan(Gama-dheere) - Abbandule
3. Mujahid Falastini – Commander of 1st company
4. Mujahid Abdulrahman Mohammed : commander of 2nd Company
5. Mujahid Mohammed Abu-Raas – commander of 3rd Company
The structure of 2nd Battalion was as follows
1. Mujahid Ahmed Dhagah – Battalion commander
2. Mujahid Abdualkarim Hashi Elmi – Deputy Battalion commander
3. Mujahid Younis Ali Adan – Abbandule
Company and unit commander were as follows
1. Ahmed akhiro
2. Mujahid Omar Iska-yidhi
3. Mujahid Abdulrazaq Dahir Dhidar ( beelo-guba)
4. 4. Mujahid Mohammed Dako
5. Mujahid Hussein Abdi Werar
6. Mujahid Rashid Burur
7. Mujahid Ahmed Shire Guud-cadde
The 2nd Battalion was founded in 1987 from 1st company which was stationed in Gudha-Ramaleh, the 3rd company stationed in Dibeele, and 5th and 6th companies, which graduated from Qabri-Bayah Training Center.
The structure of San'ani Battalion was as follows
1. Mujahid Werar: Battalion Commander (Note: Mujahid Wareer was killed on that first night and Mujahid Aden Adde took over the command)
2. Mujahid: Aden Adde : Second Battalion Commander
3. Mujahid Mohammed haybe : Battalion Abbanduleh
4. Mujahid Mohammed Ibrahim: (Ina Qayliya) : Commander of the 1st Company
5. Mujahid Mohammed Gahayr: commander of 2nd Company
6. Mujahid Mohammed Kosar : Commander of 3rd company
7. Mujahid : Ahmed Garaw : commander of the 4th company
The SNM conquest of Hargeysa continued for two months. During most of this period, the frontline was represented by the Main Road to the North of Hargeysa Group Hospital; from the West to East, with the exception of Hargeysa Main Prison, which was in the hands of faqash forces. SNM controlled the Northern part of the city, whereas the Faqash forces occupied the Southern section. . Hundreds of SNM Cadre lost their lives in this war, while they killed thousands of Faqash forces. The most prominent SNM commanders who were killed in that war were: Mujahid Mohammed Hassan (Gacma-dheere) who died on 26Jun10988, Mujahid Ahmed Dhadah, Mujahid Mohammed Haybe, Mujahid Werar, Mujahid Younis Ali Aden, and the three company commanders of Sayid Omer and the majority of company commanders of SNM forces that fought in Hargeisa Battle of Sayid Ali battalion, 20th battalion, San'ani Battalion and Barkad Battalion.
Translator's Note: This article was published by Haatuf-News, in Somali Language, on several occasions. In recognition of the fact that scores of our children are no longer conversant in Somali, I recognized the need for some translation works. This English Translation of the events of that bloody night of 31 May 1988 and the succeeding couple of days will be followed by an Arabic version soon. Finally, I am of the opinion that this is only a snapshot of our long struggle for freedom and illustrates only the tip of a mammoth iceberg. Consequently, I sincerely urge all the capable people to converge on the business of collecting the bits and pieces of SNM History before it is too late
Hassan Abdi Yousuf