On july 12th 1993 , exactly 20 years ago, in a trap in Mogadishu (Somalia), 4 journalists were killed : 3 photographers, Dan Eldon, Hos Maina (Reuters), Hansi Krauss (Associated Press) and a sound engineer Anthony Macharia (Reuters). That day remains in my head and it’s often one of my nightmares. I’m still alive. It was my lucky day.
Around 10 a.m. the USA troupes were bombing a house where Somali leaders were supposed to be, including General Mohammed Farah Aidid, White House’s public enemy number one. A lot of helicopters were flying over the town and the journalists were crowding Hotel Sahafi’s terrace, trying to see what was going on. Our Somalia fixer’s informed us about the raid in act. It stopped after 30 minutes. When the helicopters left, we ran downstairs to see what had happened.
My white Panda, well known in Mogadishu in those days with the writing “Corriere della Sera” is ready in front of the gate. My devoted driver Ali (the same one who will drive Ilaria Alpi’s car the day she was killed), the photograph Cristiano Laruffa and I enter in the Panda. My car was heading the journalist’s convoy. We were followed by Reuter’s pick up with Dan, Hos, Anthony, Hansi and Mohammed Shaffi (the cameraman) on board.
We drive in the direction of the bombed house. After 100 m, I meet Nasser (an Arush’s family member) who says: ” Take one of Aidid’s militiamen to protect you.” I think about his words . I lose the few seconds which will save my life ! I leave the car, I open the door (Fiat Panda has two doors only) I move the seat and I ask the soldier with a Kalashnikov to come with us. When all of us are sitting in the car, I close the door and we move again.
The militiaman assigned to Reuter’s pick up instead jumps directly in the back of the car which moves straight away and surpasses my Panda. So now we are second in the convoy. After a few meters we turn right, in a secondary street. A crowd of angry Somalis armed with sticks and guns come in our direction.
Our colleagues’ pick up passes, while my car is blocked instead. They try to break the glasses and overturn the Panda, without any success. Ali reverses, while the pick up proceeds ahead very fast. As we see them disappear, Cristiano shouts “ You’re stupid, we should have jumped on the back of the pick up too”. Our four friends will be killed and their bodies dilacerated.
We have to go back, because we are blocked by the crowd. “Bring us to the hospital”, I tell Ali. Just a few minutes later we arrive in Benadir’s Hospital yard. About 10 bodies are lying on the floor.
Cristiano starts taking pictures, but a group of angry people endanger us with sticks. Behind me, two old friends appear : Mr. Gelle, a lawyer, and Omar Olad. They are shouting : “Run away, run away, get in the car”.
My friend Gelle seats on the car’s hood and with a stick tries to block the crowd who tries to stop us. Omar Olad is protecting us from the back. Near the gate, Gelle falls down from the car and is lightly wounded.
We drive very fast to the Hotel and we hide inside. We get informed that several journalists have been killed. We immediately check who is present and who is missing. Ilaria Alpi isn’t here. Her car was behind mine. I try to contact her with the walkie –talkie (the Corriere della Sera gave me two of them and Ilaria had one ).
No answer. I’m afraid that she could be killed too, but happily she appears in the hotel after a short time. Another car arrives at the hotel. Mohammed Shaffi, unconscious , injured and his face full of blood and swollen is left on the floor near the gate. Cristiano brings him inside. Mohammed tells us later : “They didn’t kill me because I started to recite the Quran.”
A little while later a truck full of dead bodies arrives. The driver asks the journalists to take pictures. They have been killed by the US raid. One Somali is hidden between the journalists and attempts to take Ilaria’s life with a knife. “My little sister” (that’s the way I used to call her) was pushed inside the yard and saved by Ali.
A few hours later Dan’s body is found on a small road and picked up by aa US helicopter. The day after somebody offers me a home made video, taken by a Somali who was present when the body was taken over. I ask Ingrid Formanek (CNN) and Ilaria Alpi to buy it. I saw the video, but I couldn’t use it: my newspaper is in print.
The Reuter’s news correspondent in Mogadishu, Andy Hill, was helped by Mohammed Amin, the head of the TV services of the agency (he will die in November 1996 during the hijacking of Ethiopian’s Airlines to the Comoro Islands) who came from Nairobi to pick up our friends’ bodies. Reid G. Miller, AP’s chief in Nairobi, already in Mogadisho at the hotel Sahafi, takes care of Hansi Krauss’s body.
The same day in the afternoon we get informed that they left the bodies of our other colleagues in a cross rad. We try to pick them up, but when we arrive they were shooting at us. The day after, July 13th, Reuters and AP organized a Somalian van to transport the bodies. The bodies were mutilated.
All the bodies were brought to Unisom’s morgue and carried in body bags. For the flight from Mogadisho to Nairobi the Americans will ask 800 Dollars for each body.
Massimo A. Alberizzi
In the picture above taken by Raffaele Ciriello, killed in Ramallah on march 13th 2002, some photographers in Mogadishu those days. Below, the young DanEldon, British, just over 20 years old.
Under, Anthony Macharia, Kenyan, sound engineer for Reuters TV. And Hansi Krauss, German, photographer for AP. Finally, Hos Maina, Kenyan, photographer. There were two photographers working for Reuters that day. Dan was supposed to fly to Nairobi in the afternoon while Hos had just arrived in town. A normal turnover. Instead of preparing for his departure, Dan wanted to report the US’s raid.
AFP’s picture in the bottom : Mohammed Shaffi in Hotel Sahafi’s yard. Shaffi, a Pakistani Muslim, reported that he wasn’t killed because he was praying . He was carried out in front of the Hotel’s gate, seriously injured. Cristiano Laruffa took him into the yard. He was shocked and crying . In the picture, he’s being carried in one of the journalist’s car to escort him to the American Hospital. m.a.a