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U.S. Forces Patrol Mogadishu Streets to Protect Aid Again

By Richard A. Serrano
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

Reinforced with fresh troops and tanks, U.S. military forces are once again patrolling the streets of war-torn Mogadishu to protect humanitarian aid convoys from attacks by rival Somali warlords, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

The 7,000 U.S. military personnel in Somalia had been confined to their bases after a series of ambushes resulted in the deaths of more than 70 U.N. troops.

But with the arrival of additional troops and armor, along with a large contingent of Marines off-shore, U.S. troops have returned to their role of ensuring that humanitarian aid reaches Somalia's hungry and needy.

Navy Capt. Michael Doubleday, a Pentagon spokesman, while confirming the resumption of the humanitarian mission, added that there is no longer a secondary goal of arresting clan leader Mohammed Farah Aidid.

Doubleday also made clear that U.S. troops would not be deterred by any clan efforts to stop the humanitarian convoys.

"If there are roadblocks that are impeding the flow of humanitarian support," he said, "then you will see whatever level of vehicle is required to open the roadblock."

The new troop movements increase the risks faced by U.S. forces but also could help prevent chaos and rampant lawlessness from returning after the United States pulls out of the area the March 31 deadline set by President Clinton.

Doubleday said the new U.S. military effort has four goals. The first three, he said, are to protect U.S. forces in their bases in Mogadishu, to keep open and secure the roads and communications that allow food and other assistance to reach the needy and to keep pressure on any groups that try to cut off relief supplies or attack U.S. forces.

But it is the fourth goal that could be the most important of all once the United States leaves the West African nation.

"We are hoping to help make it possible for the Somali people to work among themselves and, with outside help, to solve their own problems so that they can live in peace and survive after we finally depart Somalia," Doubleday said.