U.S. plans to pull last troops from Somalia in Sept.

August 26, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- With violence rising in Mogadishu and prospects bleak for brokering peace with rival Somali clans, the Clinton administration plans to withdraw the last 80 American diplomats and Marines from Somalia by mid-September, State Department officials said yesterday.

The decision to move the two dozen U.S. diplomats and their Marine security detail from Mogadishu to Nairobi writes the final chapter in what began as a mission of mercy for the United States in December 1992 and at its peak involved 26,000 U.S. troops. The last American combat forces left Somalia in March.

It also ends a frustrating and, at times, bitter debate between the State Department, which feared that pulling out the symbolic U.S. presence would undermine the U.N. operation, and the Pentagon, which grew alarmed at the increasingly dangerous security situation.

With rival clans led by Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid and Mohamad Ali Mahdi at loggerheads over any peace plan, Washington believed its usefulness in Somalia had expired.

On Monday Somali militia members ambushed U.N. peacekeepers in southwestern Somalia, killing seven Indian soldiers and wounding nine others. Two Malaysian peacekeepers were killed and 11 other U.N. troops were briefly detained by Somali militia last month.

About 18,000 U.N. troops, including 10,000 in Mogadishu, have been responsible for overall security for U.S. and U.N. personnel, escorting relief convoys and training new Somali police officers.

But trucks mounted with heavy automatic weapons have returned to the streets of Mogadishu, and shoot-outs among rival clan members have become increasingly common, intelligence officials say. Clan leaders have also stockpiled arms for what administration officials fear could soon develop into a full-scale civil war.

The Security Council approved a recommendation yesterday from U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to decrease the U.N. force to about 15,000 by the end of October.

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