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September 29, 1998 (Original broadcast date)

"Ambush in Mogadishu" tells the story of the most violent U.S. combat firefight since Vietnam. On October 3, 1993 elite units of the U.S. Army's Rangers and Delta Force were ambushed by Somali men, women and children armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. The Rangers were pinned down in the most dangerous part of Mogadishu, Somalia and taking casualties. What had started out as an operation to capture warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid--turned into a tragic firefight that lasted seventeen hours, left eighteen Americans dead, eighty four wounded and continues to haunt the U.S. military and American foreign policy.

The report tracks what led up to the crisis. US officials and Somalis describe the famine, civil war, and the escalating hostilities between UN/U.S. peacekeeping forces and Aidid. "Ambush in Mogadishu" also probes the muddled U.S. military and diplomatic policy on Somalia, and Washington's failure to coordinate with U.S. military on the ground.

But the most gripping part of the tale is the harrowing descriptions of the firefight that trapped the US Rangers as they moved into a maze of alleys in Mogadishu to save a downed Blackhawk. The Rangers - some in their late teens or early twenties at the time - paint extraordinarily vivid word pictures of the intense and bloody battle which also killed 350 to 1,000 Somalis. And US military commanders describe the rescue operation which also came under intense gunfire.

The 'battle of Mogadishu'- a planned 90-minute mission which turned into a deadly 17 hours - is generally forgotten by most Americans. But five years later, it continues to cast a long shadow on US military thinking and decision making about humanitarian/peacekeeping operations. Its legacy, say many experts, was a continuing U.S. reluctance to be drawn into other trouble spots such as Bosnia, Rwanda and Haiti during the 1990s.


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