Arms to Somalia: Déjà vu

The latest report from the UN group that monitors the arms embargo on Somalia has caused quite a stir, generating extensive news coverage and eliciting vehement denials from governments accused of violating the embargo. But, as underscored by declassified US intelligence documents from the 1990s, such disregard for the embargo is nothing new.

The documents, which were obtained by the FAS under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal a disheartening similarity between sanctions-busting in the mid-1990’s and sanctions-busting now. From the countries involved to the weapons shipped, little appears to have changed over the last decade.

A 1995 memo from the Defense Intelligence Agency, for example, documents the acquisition by the Somali National Alliance – the militia commanded by the infamous warlord Mohammed Aideed – of “two airplane loads of weapons and ammunition” from Iran that included “23 shoulder-fired antiaircraft weapons of an unknown type.”

Ten years later, Iran is reportedly still sending shoulder-fired missiles to the volatile and lawless region. The soon-to-be-released UN report – a copy of which was obtained by the Council on Foreign Relations – documents the arrival in July 2006 of “an aircraft containing a shipment of arms from Iran” that reportedly included 45 “shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles.” The missiles, along with machine guns, grenade launchers, mines and small arms ammunition, were provided to the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). A month later, a boat carrying 80 additional shoulder-fired missiles (and rocket launchers) sailed from the coast of Iran to Mogadishu, where they were reportedly delivered to the ICU.

Below are scanned copies of the declassified documents, along with the foia cover letter from the Defense Intelligence Agency:

Cover Letter


“____ Somali Clan Militia Receives Support from Iran”

“____ Aideed Receives Humanitarian Aid and Weapon Shipments from Saudi Arabian Relief Organization”

“____ Abgal Clan Plans to Purchase Ammunition and Weapons to Counter the Habr Gedir Military Threat”

“____ Clandestine Arms Shipment.”

“____ Habr Gedir Activities in Mogadishu”

“____ Ships to Transport Supplies for Somali Militia”

“____ Uthman Hassan Haji ((‘Ali)) Atto Arranges for Shipments of Ammunition from Ethiopia to Somalia”

“____ Hawadle Increase Efforts to Collect Money for War Effort”

“____ Abgal and Habr Gidir Armor Shipments Arrive in Somalia from South Africa and Yemen”


“____ Yemeni Government Provides Weapons and Support to Somaliland Factions”


“____ Somali Factions are Receiving Weapons from International Arms Traders”


“____ Egyptian Soldiers Suspected of Selling Arms and Ammunition to the Somali Salvation Alliance”

“____ Somali Salvation Alliance Receives Shipment of RPGs and Heavy Weapons Ammunition”

“Somali Factions – Equipment Inventories”

“Somali Clan Order of Battle: Key Judgements,” Defense Intelligence Report, January 1993.

“Somalia: Arms Proliferation,” Military Intelligence Digest, 15 December 1993.

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