Black Hawk Down Veterans Slam Omar for Accusing Them of Killing ‘Thousands’ of Somalis

Ilhan Omar / Getty Images

Veterans of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, which was commemorated in the 1999 book Black Hawk Down, slammed freshman representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) for accusing them of murdering "thousands" of Somalis.

Kyle Lamb, who served as a Delta Force operator, and Danny McKnight, who was the Ranger colonel commanding U.S. troops, defended their mission, saying they were in Somalia to protect Omar's clan, the Majerteen, from Mohammed Farah Aidid, a ruthless warlord, the Washington Examiner reported.

Nineteen U.S. troops were killed in Mogadishu in the bloodiest combat since the Vietnam War: 18 in the main battle from Oct. 3-4 and a 19th by a mortar two days later. The battle was immortalized in the 1999 book Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden and the 2001 Ridley Scott movie of the same name that starred Josh Hartnett and Ewan McGregor.

"In helping her tribe, we had to eliminate those who were bad," Lamb told the Examiner. "She should be thankful we were there to help her people."

McKnight, who was shot in the neck and arm, told the Examiner: "I really am offended, truly offended, by her comment and her thought that thousands were killed by us. Not true. Not true at all."

Pilot Mike Durant, who was also injured after being captured and beaten when his Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism that he doesn't hold all "Somalis accountable for the actions of a few."

"As a nation, we and our political leadership should be proud of what we did there. We put our most precious resource on the line to help starving people. In return, my friends' remains and those of my comrades were dragged through the streets," Durant said. "I do not hold all Somalis accountable for the actions of a few, but I certainly take issue with the remarks of Congresswoman Omar."

Omar's comments stemmed from a 2017 tweet in which she was trying to rebut another user's comment that the Battle of Mogadishu was "the worst attack in Somalia history." She responded: "In his selective memory, he forgets to also mention the thousands of Somalis killed by the American forces that day! #NotTodaySatan," said Omar, in response.

Mark Bowden estimated that 500 Somalis died in the battle. Other estimates range from 300 to 1,000 dead, but no reputable source has put the number at thousands. Lamb said the number was wrong, but in any event, all those killed were fighters, not civilians. "We hoped that's what happened," said Lamb, who said civilians had fled the city by that point. "We weren't shooting [non-combatants]."

McKnight, who was commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment at the time and was played by Tom Sizemore in the movie, said: "Somalis [were] not very good war fighters. I saw so many of them shoot their own people while trying to shoot us," he added.

Then-President Bill Clinton ordered Task Force Ranger to go into Somalia in August 1993 as a result of Aidid's forces causing increased violence against multiple tribes, including Omar's. Maj. Gen. William Garrison, who led the Joint Special Operations Command, was tapped to lead the detachment, which included elements from the 75th Ranger Regiment, Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, Delta Force, and others, the Examiner reported.

McKnight said there was common misunderstanding from the public about the Battle of Mogadishu, saying people believe it was a single event.

"We had six fights before we ever got to number seven, which is the one known as ‘Black Hawk Down,'" said McKnight. "I think her idea (Omar) was that there was really one that just took place."