|Continued from Highway Robbery... After the shooting up and spoiling the Somali Bandits ambush, we continued on our way.They must be one heck of a disappointed Somali Bandits, they might have been thinking, like it it was as easy as taking sweets from kids, as in the case of the Italians and the Bangladeshis. The rest of the soldiers and Othman were not fully in the picture as to what exactly happened. Never mind tonight, if and when we reached Baidoa, the story will be told over beers, lots of beers. The map on the right is the map of the 'Horn of Africa' otherwise known as Somalia. Click on the pic to enlarge it. The towns and regions are clearly shown. The routes shown are the routes taken during the World Food Program run. The starting and the ending of each run begins in Mogadishu.
We continued on our journey, sometimes we came across barriers. These barriers had concrete beams, drums and old tyres. The Militia never gives up in their attempt at collecting "taxes". For the ordinary Somali it was very expensive when travelling, hey you can say the same thing when you travel on our highways, we have tolls, in place of Militias. Eventually we arrived at a place called Bur Hakaba, there is a hill in this place of rock.There are caves in this rock, it is a rock where people stay. At the foothill of this humongous rock there are scattered villages. One of the Somali trucks makes a dash for one of the villages, there are quite a number of hard standing tracks. I give orders to stop the convoy and order the rest of the Condors to surround the village to which the Somali truck has moved to. The truck must belong to someone from the village.The below image shows the town of Bur Hakaba. It's surrounded by villages, this is the rear of that rock.
It's really getting on everyones nerves. This was stupid, to try and hijack or rather running off with a truck full of grain. We have done long distance training back in Malaysia, with rest stops and all. This really took the cake. Tempers were frayed, everyone was in no mood for this kind of a crap. Othman ordered one Condor to pursue and recover the vehicle. The Condor took off, if all the Condors were ordered into the village, I am sure we would have run over some of the villagers and killed them, the mood we were in. A cooler head prevailed, Othman's.
The Condor charged in between thatched huts with mud walls and caught up with the truck. The turret swivelled with the guns bearing on the driver in the cabin of the truck. He pulled up. Even as he pulled up, around 30-40 villagers were running towards the truck. The quick thinking Section Commander Corporal Shukri and his section of men dismounted. He positioned his men well and blocked the crowd from the truck. He had his men fix bayonets. The crowd was getting bigger. This was not good. The Condor seeing the new threat, swivelled it's turret toward the crowd. The Section Commander approached the driver and gestured to him, to drive back and rejoin the convoy. I was watching this scene through my binoculars. I could see that Corporal Shukri was barely suppressing his rage and anger.
Thankfully the driver obeyed. A bloodbath was averted, in reference to the crowd of villagers., not for the driver. The convoy continued it's journey out of Bur Hakaba, when the convoy reached some distance away from Bur Hakaba, a Condor stopped the errant driver. One of the soldier's pulled the driver down by the collar of the shirt, once on the ground, he was given a flurry of kicks and a final kick to his face. The driver got up with a bit of blood on his face. The soldier pulled out his bayonet and placed it on the driver's throat. Another soldier sort of prevented him from doing it. Play acting ? I don't know. This was done in full view of all the Somali drivers and their truck attendants. For emphasis a bit of a struggle took place between the two soldiers. One was trying to slit the Somali's throat, the other stopping him. We could actually have nominated them for the Oscars. The kicks and the blood were real though.
We continued on our journey. I was getting tired sitting in the turret the day was getting late. 230 kilometers, might as well be 2,300 kilometers. The going was too slow. The heat getting to you. We continued moving at a very slow pace with me leading. I did not want to do the herding, I allowed Othman to do that as I was getting a bit sick of all the breakdowns, which were still
happening. The delays and the negotiations for the spare parts amongst the Somali drivers were taking a toll on the soldiers.
"Shoot the bastard" (Tembak anak haram itu) were frequently heard over the radio, which I always replied with, no one is going to shoot anyone without my orders. With a threat that I will personally rip off their balls ! That stopped it. It could not be totally stopped. They were not going to do it, just venting their frustrations.
Pic on the left- A Somali "Tax" collection point.
We continued our journey, as I was leading I continued scanning the forward route with my binoculars. I saw in front of me a Somali "tax" collection point. These points are blocked by placing rocks, concrete, angle iron and concertina wires. Always covered by a group with weapons at a distance under cover with good arcs of fire. The guys closest are with light weapons or sometimes unarmed, who actually do the collecting. I approached them cautiously, they did not make a move to remove the barriers placed on the road for us to continue our journey. They gestured that they wanted a truck of grain that was under my care. They must have been crazy, thinking that I would hand a truck to them that easily. I whipped out my pistol and fired a few rounds at one of the guys who looked like a leader, deliberately missing him.
Another Condor trained it's guns on a group of the militia who were covering the "tax" collectors. They backed off and started removing the crude barrier. That was a relief, no one had to die. We stared those militia down as we passed them with all our guns trained on them. Near the barriers was a village as in most cases. The "tax" collectors feel that they have the right to collect "taxes" as we were passing near their village.Their villages are of thatched huts with mud walls.
Pic on the right shows a typical Somali Village
After clearing off the village, when we were into a good two hours, I come upon another "tax" collection point. I ask myself, will these never end ? I call Othman and tell him that I was going to dismount alone and ask them to remove the barriers this time without shooting at them. I give strict instructions that no one else was to dismount. That I and I alone would negotiate and clear the barriers. I instructed Lance Corporal Shamsuddin to take my place in the turret. I also told him that if anyone fired upon me, I was going to let loose the M79, which fires a 40mm high explosive grenade. After which I will throw myself on the ground and hope for the best. He was to, at that moment open up with all the fire power he had and decimate anyone still standing. This same instruction I gave to Othman.
Before I opened the door of the Condor, I cocked my pistol, my M4A1, put in a round of the 40mm into the M79, checked the M73 grenades, put another bandolier of 40mm rounds around my neck, checked my 4 magazines on my chest, the two more magazines on my thighs and my machette. Tightened the velcro straps holding the 7.62 Nato defeating ceramic plates. Oh yes, I put on my Ranger beret with hackle and all, not the kevlar helmet. I was in other words "armed to the teeth". I was a virtual walking weapons system. I opened the hatch, one of the guys quickly shut it and locked it.
I looked in front of me, there were about 15 Somalis, with weapons. I had my M79 in my right hand and my M4A1 in my left hand. There were another 20 odd Somalis further back, high probabaility of them being armed too. I walked towards the barrier. Something caught my ears. A sound of people moving behind me. Shit and double shit ! The Somalis were moving behind me to capture me alive to be used as a hostage for bargaining purposes. I would never live it down, being captured, I pivoted, ready to fire. No ! There were no Somalis but a whole section of my soldiers paper potting in the the fire and manoeuvre formation, heavily armed.
I was angry that my orders were deliberately disobeyed, I shouted at them :
"Hey you cunts, who asked you to dismount ?",(Dey pundeh, siapa suruh kau orang turun ?).
The answer I received from the youngest soldier in the platoon was : "Hey, sir, you don't want to die alone, do you ?" (Tak akan tuan mahu mati seorang ?)
I have done many things. I was from the rank and file. I have been promoted so many times. Did I have satisfaction ? That day was a day of awakening for me. I felt goose bumps forming on my neck, in reaction to the answer given by a very young soldier. I knew then and there that my soldiers accepted me as their leader and willing to do anything for me. Even die for me ! I knew from then on, that my soldiers and I could take on anything. Many an officer would give his all to experience a moment like that. I was elated. I approached the Somalis while a whole section of men were on the ground to support me, with other covering me from the Condors. All my boys meaning business. I walked up to the Somalis, pointed at their guns with my M79 and told them to lower their weapons. Which they did. Next I kicked over a few of the barriers, there was alot of talking amongst them, soon the Somalis joined me at my location clearing the barriers. I was on top of the world.
Soon the barriers were cleared, my soldiers mounted up into their vehicles, the convoy continued on it's journey to Baidoa. The Somali Militia waved us off very respectfully. Somalis respect a show of force, if you can be taken out, they would not hesitate to do so. They saw that we were a determined lot and we meant business. They backed off. So much the better for them. I knew with the soldiers I had, I would feel sorry for the Somalis.
Continued ....Reaching Baidoa.