Valour and Courage: Death in Mogadishu
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“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God


Which must always come to pass

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He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?


Have you always turned the other cheek?


To My Church have you been true?"


"No, Lord, I guess I ain't


Because those of us who carry guns


Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around


Except to calm their fears.


If you've a place for me here,


Lord, It needn't be so grand,


I never expected or had too much,


But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Death in Mogadishu
Sunday, April 29, 2007
*Postscript: I forgot to tell you a few more details that you might be interested in:

- Warrant Officer Hare (NZ) was newly assigned to U2, Captain Sen was an operation staff officer and they were in the patrol to have a familiarization tour of the area;

- Captain Sen was slightly wounded on his face during the fight as Colonel Vezzalini was at his arm;

- The day of the repatriation of the bodies of the Malaysian killed during the action Colonel Vezzalini was in the airport to honor the heroes. I was not there because I was in the Pakistani field hospital under surgery for removing one bullet from my shoulder.

- The Malaysian troops assigned to U2 duties were daily patrolling in the most dangerous and remote area of Mogadishu. That was the first time in one year, that our patrol included people that was not from the U2 Human Intelligence Team

Ferdinando SALVATI
COL IT A
D/Cos Training and Readiness
NATO SOF Coordination Centre
DSN: (314) 423-8286
Commercial: (+32) (0)65-44-8286
Cell: (+32) 478-677-617
ferdinando.salvati@nscc.bices.org

The day was a blistering hot day, the rainy season had just ended, leaving tufts of green mingled with garbage along the narrow streets of Mogadishu, on the 18th of July 1994. It was like any other day. It was a mixed bunch of Italians, a New Zealander and Malaysians. This team consisted of 3 Officers and 10 Other Ranks. They were on a patrol. The Malaysian Commander, Major Len Olivero did not know that this patrol for the Malaysians was not led by an Officer. His explicit instructions were that all Malaysian involvement was to be led by a Malaysian Officer. In this case a Captain Rizal was to be involved, unfortunately for reasons beyond comprehension he did not participate in this patrol.

There was this Staff Sergeant Azman Mohamad Tahir from the Malaysian Special Forces Regiment from Malacca and Corporal Ghani anak Binjoi from 6th Rangers who was from Kampung Koran Mawang in the district of Serian. There were two companies from 6th Rangers and a Troop of Special Forces guys attached to 7th Rangers (Mechanized). Corporal Ghani had a wife whose name was Dora anak Buki, both of them were blessed with 3 children, one aged 6 years old, another aged 3 years old and the youngest 7 days old, born about 7 days ago on the day Corporal Ghani went on this patrol.

The man who led this patrol was an Italian Colonel, he was Colonel Fulvio Vezzalini, a very experienced soldier. In conducting patrols for information gathering and intelligence there were restrictions; UN patrols could not go beyond Bakara market, the site of “black hawk down”. That rule did not apply for intelligence gathering activities.

Beyond that no UN personnel were allowed to conduct patrols as there were many armed militia consisting of the Hawadle and Habar Gidir clans. Both of them being rival clans, clashed constantly. More so the Habar Gidir clan was jealous that the building rented by the UN for Malaysian soldiers was from the Hawadle. The Hawdle got paid by the UN and the Habar Gidir was not. The convoy moved slowly, it drew the attention of the Militia there. The first group of Militia that spotted the convoy alerted the rest of the militia strong points.

It was about 0900+ hrs when Major Len noticed a UN convoy of soft skinned vehicles (non-armoured) passing his location which was K4. He rushed down to check with his sentries whether the boys in that particular patrol were his. The sentries confirmed to say that they belonged to Bravo Company of 6th Rangers. They could specifically identify Ranger Martin as he had waved to them as he was passing.

There were 3 vehicles that made up this convoy. Major Len immediately radioed back to UNOSOM Hq to get some more information on the convoy that went past K4. Lieutenant Sulaiman, a platoon commander of Bravo Company who was on duty at UNOSOM Hq informed Major Len that the convoy was being led by an Italian Colonel, who was the Commander of U1, an intelligence gathering apparatus. The Colonel had requested for an escort to gather Intelligence of some sort, which everyone thought only he knew. Apart form manning K4, a strong point, Major Len’s men provided escort services for UN contingents.

Strong Point 4 was located at a roundabout which was connected to 4 routes Afgooyee -Lenin-Medina-Gesira Street. There were two buildings in K4, one facing the North and another facing South. Before the Malaysians occupied it the Bangladeshis were the previous tenants. The Malaysian contingent took over duties from the Bangladeshis on the 17th April 1994. The area was secured by two rifle company platoons from 6th Rangers, the Company was later declared to be known as ‘D’ Company. It had two detachments of 106 mm recoilless guns, along with two IFV’s equipped with 20mm Oerlikon guns to support them.

The area around K4 was one of the tensest places in all of Mogadishu. There used to be fierce gun battles around K4 since the 14th April 1994. The Bangladeshis were just not equipped to maintain K4. The increase in tensions was contributed by the increase in the number of Technical’s in that area.

This made Major Len reinforce his location. The surrounding buildings were concrete and close. The defence of K4 called for the defence from two buildings. Since taking over that location from the Bangladeshis, many stray rounds and mortar rounds landed in and around the strong point. On the 18th May 1994 at around 2100 hrs an RPG round penetrated one of the buildings, into the accommodation of Major Len’s boys. Fortunately no one slept early that night, thus there were no fatalities. Staying at K4 is likened to Chinese New Year festivities where huge amounts of fire crackers are lit.

Major Len Olivero had the unenvious job of commanding it. Len being in K4 for many months knew that it was against UN Forces Standard Operational Procedures to go further than K4, as the infamous Bakara market of “Black Hawk Down” fame was just a kilometer plus from K4. That area beyond K4 was very volatile with Militias having a free reign over that area. Major Len did not know that Intelligence operatives were not restricted by this rule.

Major Len then thought to himself, that the Commander of the Convoy must really know what he was doing or that he was foolishly taking a big risk. He pushed the thoughts of the patrol to the back of his mind He then went on doing his daily routine without giving further thought about the convoy any more.

After having the normal evening games of football and “sepak takraw”, these were games to keep the boys of Bravo Company fit in a very confined area in a war zone. Soon the games were over, Major Len went to have a shower, he went to his sentries to inquire about the convoy, which was subconsciously lingering in his mind, to his horror, the sentries informed him that the convoy had not returned and the time was already 1730 hrs (5.30pm). Major Len’s instructions to all his boys were that they advise whoever they are escorting, that they must return to base by 1700hrs. The reason for this directive was that it gets dark early in Mogadishu. The likelihood of ambush towards dusk was a high probability, especially in Mogadishu’s closely built up area.

Staff Sergeant Azman was driving the UN white Toyota pickup, he tried avoiding the potholes filled with water, he had to slow down; on the left of them, in front, he passed a Militia strong point when a .50 calibre machine gun belonging to the Somali Militia opened up. The rounds thudded through the sides of the Toyota pickup (left hand drive) and slammed through Staff Sergeant Azman’s body like a hot knife through butter. He died instantly. Corporal Ghani instantly opened fire in the direction; the .50 calibre machine gun had fired, with his M16, after exhausting the entire rounds in his magazine he took out his M79. He tried to live up to the proud traditions of the Rangers. There were too many of them and they closed up all around the pickup very fast.

The armed militia men started firing from the crowd of old men women and children. Ghani tried, desperately to fight then off, unfortunately the rest of the mixed patrol of different countries were not able to assist him. Ghani hesitated because of this screw-up, one of the Somalis yanked the rifle from his hands and another pumped some rounds into Corporal Ghani’s head. He fell down dead. The Italian Colonel, the two Italian Captains, the New Zealand Army Warrant Officer, the rest of the Malaysians and the sole Malaysian Intelligence Officer were taken prisoner. The bodies of the two Malaysians were seized. Colonel Fulvio Vezzalini, the two Italian Captains were captured along with the New Zealand Warrant Officer.

The women and children started looting the equipment of the patrol. The weapons and the vehicles were seized by the Somali gunmen. In that incident two Malaysians were killed, the wounded were Sergeant Zaidi bin Hanafiah, Malaysian Special Forces (under command of Major Len), Lance Corporal Ahmad bin Ab Rahman, Malaysian Special Forces (under command of Major Len) and Ranger Martin anak Regip (Major Len’s boy). The other person wounded was Captain Ferdinando Salvati from Italy.

The ambush position was well covered. There was an 8 feet wall which blocked any avenue of escape and limited cover from fire. The Colonel and the men were interrogated by the Somalis. They were moved from house to house. The gunmen told the Colonel that he would probably be questioned by General Farah Aided. The reason for the attack upon the convoy as related by the Colonel was that the Somali gunmen had mistaken them for Americans and had opened fire. The fact was all Americans had withdrawn on the 31st March 1994, leaving a token few amounting to a platoon plus (30+ men) to take care of the American Embassy in Mogadishu. The Americans had actually stopped patrolling the streets of Mogadishu since after the “Black Hawk Down” incident on the 3rd/4th October 1993. Patrolling was done by Malaysian Forces only.

Meanwhile Major Len, who was feeling very uneasy by then, radioed back to his Company Hq (University Mogadishu compound), hoping that his boys were back. HQ informed him that his boys were not back. He then got into touch with his Platoon commander, Sulaiman who was on duty at UNOSOM Hq, who also happened to be the Duty Officer. He instructed Lt Sulaiman to find out about the status of the patrol from the other UN resources. His next avenue of information was from Bravo Company of 7th Rangers (Mechanized), via Major Christopher Joseph who was the Officer Commanding, after a short conversation he was instructed to cease all discussions by a pen pushing senior officer, as the senior officer felt irritated, that it was idle chatter.

Lt Sulaiman meanwhile was frantically contacting officers from other contingents who too were on duty at UNOSOM11 Hq. It was of no avail, no one knew anything about the patrol led by the Italian Colonel. Lt Sulaiman after much trying, radioed back and reported that he could not get anything on the patrol to Major Len Olivero.

As no information was forthcoming Major Len resignedly went for dinner and told his boys in K4 to say a prayer for all the UN guys in that particular patrol. He visited the sentries before retiring to bed, as he was exhausted physically and mentally. At about 0010 hrs a sentry knocked on his door saying that there were some Somalis that wanted to talk to him. He dressed up and went down, there he saw the Italian Colonel. The Italian Colonel informed him that his patrol was ambushed and that two Malaysian were dead, two seriously injured (stretcher cases). Along with the Italian Colonel was the Malaysian Intelligence Warrant Officer. Major Len who just awoke was in a state of confusion, his mind was reeling with the words of the Italian Colonel, “we have got to save them”.

Major Len then went to meet the Somali Elders who had accompanied the Italian Colonel. The Elders told him that he could take a few soldiers to bring back the dead, the wounded and the prisoners. That they would not be allowed to bear arms, they had to recover their men unarmed. He considered that they were Rangers and that they did not need fire arms to prove to people how good and fearless soldiers they were. So, after a rough calculation, 2 dead and 2 stretcher cases, he needed 8 for stretchers (good terrain so 2 per stretcher), another 3 to help the walking wounded and himself to command the group. There were no Somalis, there was no information and no feedbacks as the Somalis around K4 had shut down their ramshackle stalls and fled the scene as they were terrified that the Malaysians would indiscriminately retaliate against them. They walked unarmed towards Bakara Market and as they passed each alley that came to a main road, there was a Technical (a vehicle mounted with a .50 gun), indicating that the Somalis were scared shit of the Malaysians, as they were expecting severe retaliation.

On the 19th of July 1994 at around 0300 hrs the bodies of the two soldiers who fell and the captured UN personnel were handed over to Major Len and his entourage of unarmed soldiers.

A casual dining area was cleared in K4 to place the bodies, in the patio of the building. An armoured ambulance along with a heavily armed escort was sent by MALBATT 11 to recover the dead, the wounded and the captured.

The men involved in this tragic incident were:
1. Colonel Fulvio Vezzalini - Italy
2. Captain Ferdinando Salvati - Italy
3. Captain Emilio Sen - Italy
4. Warrant Officer Hare Kent - New Zealand
5. Warrant Officer Mohamad Baharom - Malaysia (Intelligence)
6. Staff Sergeant Azman Mohd Tahir -Malaysia (MSSR)
7. Sergeant Zaidi Hanafiah - Malaysia (MSSR)
8. Corporal Ghani ak Binyoi - Malaysia (Rangers)
9. Lance Corporal Bakar Selamat - Malaysia (Rangers)
10. Lance Corporal Ahmed Ab Rahman - Malaysia (MSSR)
11. Ranger Adnan Abu Bakar -Malaysia (Rangers)
12 Ranger Gerry ak Tugan - Malaysia (Rangers)
13. Ranger Martin ak Regip - Malaysia (Rangers)

*Postscript
This was something interesting I found on the net, for easy reading I extracted from this link below as the material in it was very long. I copied only the relevant parts. It is in Malay, my apologies to my “English speaking only“readers. I will not translate this. If you understand it, ok, well and good. It is for us, Malaysians to ponder on the sacrifices, rewards, promises and politics. Just remember the kind of people you want to vote for during the next election. I do not know what was the outcome of the events below and I do not want to speculate.The PDF file below will take a long time to download, as there are 217 pages.

Extract Parliament's proceedings in PDF format.

Tuan Richard Riot Anak Jaem [Serian]: Terima kasih, TuanPengerusi. Saya merujuk kepada B.25, Butiran 020000 Bantuan Bersama.
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Kalau kita ingat tiga tahun yang lalu, iaitu pada tanggal 18 Julai 1994, dua orang anggota tentera kita yang berkhidmat dengan Pasukan Pengiring Keselamatan Markas Unosom II di bawah Panji Pertubuhan Bangsa-bangsa Bersatu (PBB) di Somalia telah terbunuh dalam satu serang hendap di Mogadishu. Seorang dari dua orang yang terbunuh itu ialah Koperal Ghani anak Binjoi dari Rejimen VI, Renjer Diraja yang berasal dari Kampung Koran Mawang iaitu sebuah kampung di daerah saya, Serian. Saya mengambil kesempatan ini untuk mengucapkan berbanyak-banyak terima kasih kepada kerajaan khususnya kepada Angkatan Tentera Malaysia kerana amat prihatin dan telah mengambil berat akan kebajikan keluarga yang telah ditinggalkan oleh mendiang, iaitu seorang balu berusia 33 tahun waktu itu dan tiga orang anak.

Seorang berumur enam tahun, seorang berumur tiga tahun dan seorang lagi baru sahaja dilahirkan tujuh hari sebelum mendiang koperal Gani meninggal dunia. Bantuan dan sumbangan yang telah diberikan oleh kerajaan seperti Insurans Kelompok, gratuity, pencen termasuk membina sebuah rumah di kampung balu mendiang dan sebagainya telah dapat mengurangkan bebanan keluarga mendiang. Jadi, saya bagi pihak balu kepada mendiang ingin mengambil kesempatan ini untuk sekali lagi mengucapkan berbanyak-banyak terima kasih kepada kerajaan khususnya kepada Angkatan Tentera Malaysia.

Tuan Pengerusi, saya ingin mengungkit satu perkara iaitu satu janji yang telah dibuat oleh sebuah syarikat. Syarikat yang bernama Syarikat Bukit Rambai Development Sdn. Bhd. yang beralamat di 231A, Jalan Merpati of Jalan Raja Laut, 50350 Kuala Lumpur yang telah berjanji atau pledge untuk
DR.17.11.97
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memberi sebuah apartment tiga bilik bernilai RM63,000 di Taman Desa Ria, Batu 10 Tangga Batu, Melaka. Jadi, kalau diizinkan saya akan membaca kandungan surat:
“22 Julai, 1994.
Menteri Pertahanan,
Dato' Seri Haji Mohd. Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak. Yang Berhormat Dato’ Seri, Sumbangan Dua Unit Apartment Tiga Blok Kelas G di Fasa II,Taman Desa Ria, Tangga Batu Melaka Kami bagi pihak Pengerusi dan Lembaga Pengarah Syarikat ini ingin merakamkan ucapan takziah di atas kematian dua anggota tentera kita semasa bertugas di Somalia pada 18 Julai 1994. Memandangkan hasrat Allahyarham Staff Sarjan Azman Mohamad Tahir untuk memiliki sebuah rumah untuk keluarganya, syarikat kami sukacitanya menyumbangkan satu unit apartment untuk keluarga Allahyarham Staff Sarjan Azman Mohamad Tahir dan juga untuk keluarga mendiang Gani anak Binjoi, di projek kami di Taman Desa Ria, Tangga Batu Melaka.

Apartment yang bernilai RM63,000 tersebut mengandungi 3 buah bilik sedang dalam pembinaan dan dijangka siap dalam masa 12 bulan lagi. Kami berharap Yang Berhormat Dato’ Seri dapat menyampaikan hasrat kami kepada keluarga
DR.17.11.97
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Allahyarham Staff Sarjan Azman Mohamad Tahir dan keluarga mendiang koperal Gani anak Binjoi dengan harapan sumbangan yang tidak seberapa ini dapat mengurangkan bebanan kedua keluarga ini.” Susulan kepada itu pada 9 Ogos Syarikat Bukit Rambai Development Sdn. Bhd. telah menulis sepucuk surat kepada Puan Dora anak Buki iaitu balu kepada mendiang koperal atau Sarjan Gani anak Binjoi. Jadi, dalam kandungan
surat itu berbunyi:
“Puan,
Surat ini merupakan pengakuan sumbangan syarikat ini kepada Puan sebuah unit apartment tiga bilik bernilai RM63,000 di Taman Desa Ria, Tangga Batu Melaka sepertimana yang dinyatakan di dalam surat kami kepada Yang Berhormat Dato' Seri Haji Mohd. Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, Menteri Pertahanan Malaysia pada 20 Julai 1994. Sumbangan kecil kami ini merupakan penghargaan syarikat ini di atas sifat-sifat keperwiraan yang telah ditunjukkan oleh mendiang Gani anak Binjoi untuk bangsa dan negara. Kami akan memaklumkan kepada Puan sebaik sahaja apartment ini siap dibina untuk upacara penyerahan kunci. Sekian dimaklumkan, terima kasih.”

Tuan Pengerusi, hampir tiga tahun telah berlalu, tetapi sehingga kini belum ada berita dari sama ada Syarikat Bukit Rambai development Sdn. Bhd. mahupun dari Kementerian Pertahanan. Oleh yang demikian, Tuan Pengerusi bagi pihak balu kepada mendiang saya mohon agar pihak kementerian membuat siasatan atau membuat follow-up tentang janji atau pledge yang telah dibuat oleh Bukit Rambai Development Sdn. Bhd. kepada balu mendiang ini. Dengan itu saya menyokong rang undang-undang ini iaitu di bawah Maksud B.25.
Sekian, terima kasih.

Yang Berhormat dari Serian tadi membangkitkan tentang perkara anggota tentera yang terbunuh dan mendapat perhatian oleh pihak kerajaan. Saya juga ucap terima kasih di atas ucapan terima kasih Yang Berhormat tadi kepada pihak kerajaan yang telah dapat sedikit-sebanyak membantu para keluarga ataupun balu-balu Allahyarham Staff Sarjan Azman bin Tahir dan juga Korporal Gani yang terkorban di Somalia. Kedua, perkara yang
dibangkitkan juga oleh Yang Berhormat bersabit dengan dua buah apartment yang dijanjikan oleh syarikat yang disebut tadi, saya telah pun mencatat nama syarikat yang berkenaan, tetapi eloklah juga tulis surat kepada saya dan saya
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akan minta pegawai saya pergi menyiasat tentang janji-janji yang telah diberikan oleh syarikat tersebut untuk menghadiahkan dua buah apartment ini kepada waris kedua-dua anggota tentera yang telah pun terkorban demi menegakkan nama baik kedaulatan negara kita. Insya-Allah, kita akan bertindak agar janji mereka itu tetap ditepati.
Itulah sahaja Tuan Pengerusi, apa yang dapat saya jawab daripada pandangan, saranan serta teguran Ahli-ahli Yang Berhormat. Yang mana perkara yang tidak sempat saya menjawab, saya harap pegawai-pegawai saya yang ada di Dewan ini dapat mencatatkan dan mengambil tindakan seterusnya daripada komen-komen Ahli-ahli Yang Berhormat berkenaan. Seterusnya ucapkan terima kasih.
posted by D.Swami Gwekanandam @ 6:56 AM  
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