1993, July 7th: the Italian Army runs an extensive weapon search all around the dismissed Pasta Factory, in North Mogadishu, in a key district to keep control over "Via Imperiale", the main northbound road out of Mogadishu. Italians have proved extremely effective - as acknowledged by other contingent, including US Army - at confiscating weapons, since the beginning of 1993, when the aim of the UN multinational peacekeeper force has focused on depriving all fighting factions of heavy weapons as RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenades), grenade launchers, recoilless guns and assault rifles. A few days before, the checkpoint located just a few hundred meters from the Pasta Factory has gone under heavy assault - mostly from General Aidid's SNA militias - and only the prompt intervention by an armed reinforcement team had been successful in avoiding a disaster. Situation changes quickly for italian "Folgore" paratroopers, that morning. Somali resistance grows bigger and bigger, and while women and kids on a row offer visual protection to fighters, the very first shooting begins. Brig. Gen. Bruno Loi, under fire as well as his men, is reluctant to order them to open fire on the crowd, despite the increasing of the shooting. Soon, the less and less sporadic shooting turns in a real battle. Somali gunmen starts targeting italian armored cars with deadly RPGs. Italian's fire, although effective, cannot but limit casualties. A few hours later 23 paratroopers lay wounded on the ground and three - Lieutenant Andrea MILLEVOI, Maj. Sarg. Stefano PAOLICCHI and Private Pasquale BACCARO - are dead. The very first italian war casualties after WW II. The checkpoint itself is lost to somali militias. Paratrooper Lieut. Gianfranco Paglia, who was inside his M-113 armored troops transport vehicle when hit by an RPG grenade, suffers spine wounds by shells with consequent paralysis.
ONE WEEK LATER, on July 9th, for italian peacekeepers it's time to go back. That's where all my pictures come from..
After extensive dealing with influent politicians as Ibrahim Liq Ligato (former Somali National Assembly president) as well with Gen. Aidid's aide Isse Mohammed Siad,Brig. Gen. Bruno Loi leads once again his men to Pasta Factory district. The convoy, "enriched" with M-60 tanks and their terrific deterrent force benefits also from air coverage by Agusta-Bell AB 205 military choppers. The very beginning recalls dramatically previous clashes. The crowd gathers in a front row while children and women start throwing fist-sized stones. Italian Army / intelligenceofficers go back and forth from the Italian to the somali side of the confrontation line. Finally, afterlocal elderlywith a loudspeaker have requested everybody to cooperate and desist from fighting, italians can come back to the checkpoint which they stronglyfortify in a matter of hours.
A few minutes after welcoming italian peacekeepers by stone-throwing, the crowd turns hysterically friendly.
Paratroopers Lieutenant Paglia, evacuated to Italy after suffering spine wounds when his armored car was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG)
Paratroopers Lieut. Gianfranco Paglia, evacuated to Italy after suffering spine wounds when his armored car was hit by an RPG
Brig. Gen. Bruno Loi (without helmet) entoured by his escort
39344 Isse Mohammed Siad, Gen. Aidid close aide, here with Brig. Gen. Bruno loi at Pasta factory checkpoint. On the background, with a helmet, Mar. Mandorlini.
Ibrahim Liq Ligato, former Somali National Assembly president
This little girls shows us her big surprise, while getting within a few meters from Brig. Gen. Bruno Loi and his paratroopers escort
M-60 tanks were kept for a long time with the turret rotated 90°, meaning a peaceful approach
More M-60 tanks pictures HERE
Warm welcome - at the beginning - for italian peacekeepers at Pasta Factory Checkpoint
From a military vehicle, a somali influent elderly requests local population to cooperate with the italians and to refrain from shooting
Brig Gen. Bruno Loi, wearing a paratrooper burgundy beret, instead of the blue UN
39135 Paratrooper Major Angelo Passafiume while bouncing between opposite lines together with an elderly from Pasta Factory district
39283 Gen. Aidid supporter with a portrait of the somali warlord
Rage turned into hooray for italians back to Pasta Factory checkpoint on that 9th of July, 1993
The Pasta Factory checkpoint post, lost to somali militias one week before, was fortified in a matter of hours
In both confrontations, military choppers were providing air coverage to ground troops
Italians could take profit of the terrific deterrent power from M-60 tanks
Brig. Gen. Bruno Loi greeted by somali crowd
Farewell, good ol' Marjan... The lone king of Kabul zoo succumbs to his age at 48, after surviving years and years of deprivations and symbolizing to kabulis the spirit of resiliency itself Well.....that's sad news, indeed. To my eyes, Marjan symbolized hope. However, in thinking about that dear old lion's death I choose to believe that when he heard the swoosh of kites flying over Kabul, heard the roars from the football stadium, experienced the renewed sounds of music in the air and heard the click-click of chess pieces being moved around chessboards....well, the old guy knew that there was plenty of hope around and it was okay for him to let go and fly off, amid kite strings, to wherever it is the spirits of animals go.
Peace to you Marjan and peace to Afghanistan.
[Diana Smith, via the Internet]