Operation Gothic Serpent

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Missing image
Bravo Company, 3rd Batallion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Somalia, 1993.
Operation Gothic Serpent



August 22, 1993 — October 13, 1993



Operation Restore Hope;
June 5, 1993 ambush of Pakistani troops;
Resolution 837 of the United Nations Security Council



Mohamed Farrah Aidid, local militia, Aidid's lieutenants and advisors.


Capture of some of Aidid's advisors and lieutenants.
18 American combat deaths.
Withdraw of American forces from Somalia.

Opposing parties
Assaulters Defendants
U.S. Special Operations Forces Mogadishu local militia
Maj. Gen. William F. Garrison


General Mohammed Farah Aidid

Habr Gidr clan

More than 300 (estimated) Unknown (local militia)
18 dead

More than 73 wounded (estimated)

Unknown, some hundreds.

Operation Gothic Serpent was a military operation conducted by special forces of the United States with the primary mission of capturing General Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The operation took place in Somalia, Africa from August to October 1993 and was supervised by the Joint Special Operations Command.

As part of the operation, the soldiers were deployed in a mission to arrest two of Aidid's lieutenants. The result of that mission —executed under the command of Gothic Serpent— became known as the Battle of Mogadishu.



In December of 1992, President George H. W. Bush ordered the U.S. armed forces to join the United Nations in a joint operation known as Operation Restore Hope with the primary mission of restoring order in Somalia. The country was wracked by civil war and a severe famine as it was ruled by a number of warlords. Over the next several months, the situation deteriorated.

In May 1993, all the parties involved in the civil war agreed to a disarmament conference proposed by Mohamed Farah Aidid, the leading Somali warlord. On June 5, 1993, 24 Pakistani troops in the UN force were killed in an ambush in an area of Mogadishu, controlled by Aidid. Any hope of a peaceful resolution of the conflict quickly vanished. The next day, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 837 calling for the arrest and trial of those responsible for the ambush. US warplanes and UN troops began a concentrated attack on Aidid's stronghold. Aidid remained defiant, and the violence between Somalis and UN troops escalated.

On August 22, Task Force Ranger was deployed to Somalia under the command of Maj. General William F. Garrison, commander of Delta Force at the time. The force consisted of:

General information of the operation

In Mogadishu, the task force occupied an old hangar and construction trailers under primitive conditions. The force even lacked potable water and was subject to frequent mortar and rocket propelled grenade (RPG) fire.

During the month of September, the force conducted several successful missions to arrest sympathizers of Aidid and to confiscate arms caches. The aircrafts also made frequent flights over the city to desensitize the public to the presence of military aircraft and to familiarize themselves with the narrow streets and alleys of the city (see PSYOPs).

Operation Code Irene, the Battle of Mogadishu

Main article: Battle of Mogadishu.

On the afternoon of October 3, 1993, informed that two leaders of Aidid's clan were at a residence in central Mogadishu, the task force sent 19 aircraft, 12 vehicles, and 160 men to arrest them. During the mission, one of the Rangers fast-roping from an MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, missed the rope and fell 70 feet to the street below, badly injuring himself. The two leaders were quickly arrested, and the prisoners and the injured Ranger were loaded on a convoy of ground vehicles. However, armed Somalis were converging on the target area from all over the city.

The battle turned out to be the most intensive close combat that US troops had engaged in since the Vietnam War. In the end, two MH-60 Black Hawks were destroyed and 19 US soldiers lost their lives.


The militia had also taken Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mike Durant captive, planning to trade him for Somali prisoners. But before they could get him back to their village, they were intercepted by local bandits, who took Durant, intending to use him for ransom. He was taken back to a house where he was held, interrogated, and videotaped. Later, after Aidid paid his ransom, Durant was moved to the apartment of Aidid's propaganda minister.

After five days, he was visited by a representative of the International Red Cross and interviewed by British and French journalists. Finally, after ten days, with the intervention of former U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Robert Oakley, he was released and flew home to a hero's welcome. The mission was over; Gothic Serpent was unsucessful, as the soldiers could never capture Aidid.


  1. Dolan, Ronald E. A History of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (http://www.nightstalkers.com/history/). Chapter IX: Somalia/Operation Gothic Serpent (http://www.nightstalkers.com/history/9.html). Washington, DC: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. October 2001.
  2. Loeb, Vernon. The CIA in Somalia: After-Action Report (http://www.somaliawatch.org/archivejuly/000927601.htm). Washington: Washington Post Magazine. February 27, 2000.

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