'Black Hawk Down' al Qaeda Link Is Seen 20 Years After Attack

Friday, 04 Oct 2013 12:33 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Al Qaeda trained and prepared Somalis militants who attacked U.S. soldiers two decades  ago in the "Black Hawk Down" incident in Mogadishu that led to withdrawal of troops from that war-torn country in 1993, an author said on the 20th anniversary of the miltary tragedy.

Mark Bowden, author of the book "Black Hawk Down," told ABC News that the attack and damage to the Black Hawk helicopters had all the trademarks of the then fledging terror organization that found inspiration from the attack.

"They coached the (Somali militia) rocket-propelled grenade guys to aim for the tail rotors of U.S. Black Hawks," said Mark Bowden.

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At the time of the attack, little was known about al Qaeda's role in the incident, but it is now believed the terror organization was one of the main suppliers of training.

"It is true that al Qaeda was emboldened by 1993 – it was their first successful attack on us and we were unaware of (Osama) bin Laden's involvement until later," former Sen. Bob Kerrey, who served on the 9/11 Commission, told ABC News on Thursday.

U.S. Army Rangers went to downtown Mogadishu Oct. 3, 1993, to capture a key officer of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Everything changed when militants shot down two Black Hawk helicopters providing cover for the Rangers, according to  Phillyburbs.com.

By the time rescue forces arrived early the next day, 18 soldiers had been killed and 73 others wounded. The 9/11 Commission, according to ABC News, said the CIA found out in 1997 that bin Laden had sent his top military experts to Somalia nearly a year before the Black Hawk Down battle to aid Aideed.

"We were dropped into a hornet’s nest,” said Phil Lepre, who was a 24-year-old demolition specialist from Pennsylvania who survived the battled, according to  Phillyburbs.com. "It was like we were in a gauntlet."

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Lepre told the website at one point he asked a fellow soldier to switch positions with him, only to see that soldier get shot and die shortly afterward.

"I felt bad," Lepre told Phillyburb.com. "Here I am telling this guy to take my position and he gets hit in the head."

Related stories:

US Jihadist Rapper Reported Killed in Somalia

Kenya to Somalia: 'Put House in Order' After Mall Attack

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