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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Somalia: Yankees, Come Back

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Ten years ago, Somalis welcomed American troops as saviors in their starved and battered land. Then they drove them out. Now many wish the Americans would come back.

Instead, they find themselves on U.S. President George W. Bush's terrorism blacklist.

"We need them desperately. We need a rescue mission from the Americans," said Mohamed Jama Furuh, manager of the empty port where containers and cranes sit rusting in the sun. If they hadn't left, he said, "Somalia would have been one of the developing countries. It would not be the graveyard it is now."

Since 1991 there has been no government to speak of in this country of 7 million on the Horn of Africa. These days a two-year-old transitional regime runs barely half of Mogadishu, the capital. Warlords control the rest. About half a million Somalis are refugees in neighboring Kenya. Hundreds of thousands more are homeless in Somalia itself.

In October, at peace talks in Kenya, 20 factions and the transitional government endorsed a peace agreement calling for a cease-fire and a new system of government. But negotiations are months away from completion, and no one wants to disarm first, so clan-based clashes continue.

Gunfire is so common in Mogadishu that kids playing by a camp for homeless people don't even look up when rounds from an AK-47 crackle in the humid air as a battered pickup speeds by loaded with gun-toting teenagers.

Crumbling government buildings and bullet-riddled villas from Italian colonial times line potholed, garbage-strewn streets. Assault rifles, heavy machine guns and grenade launchers are sold openly in markets.

On Dec. 9, 1992, U.S. troops waded ashore in Mogadishu in the glare of TV lights, the vanguard of a 21-nation mission to feed hundreds of thousands of people during a war-induced famine.

The U.S.-led mission then turned its efforts to restoring order in Somalia, but dozens of United Nations peacekeepers and at least 25 U.S. troops were killed, along with hundreds, possibly thousands, of Somalis.

Now, even Somalis who fought the foreigners 10 years ago want America's help to end their nightmare.

"I believe they are the sole power who can do something for our country. We would like America to use its political influence, not through fighting, to bring peace to our country," Dahir Mohamed Hassan said.

Now in his 40s and a guard at a hotel, Hassan said he fought U.S. forces in the Oct. 3, 1993 battle of Mogadishu in which 18 Americans died trying to capture aides of faction leader Mohamed Farah Aidid.

Images of angry mobs dragging the bodies of dead U.S. soldiers through the streets were broadcast worldwide. The Americans left in 1993 and the last UN peacekeepers were gone by March 1995.

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has been quoted as saying it was the battle of Mogadishu that led him to believe the Americans lacked the stomach for war. Western countries then more or less ignored the largely Muslim nation -- until the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Bush put the country's largest company, Al-Barakat, and a Somali Islamic group, al-Ittihad al-Islami, on a list of groups believed to have links to al-Qaida. Israeli and U.S. officials suspect al-Ittihad was involved in last month's attack in Mombasa that killed 10 Kenyans and three Israelis.

Somalis insist the link to terrorism is untrue. But Furuh, the port manager, acknowledges that Somalia is lawless and unable to police its borders.

"When the door is open, anybody can go through," he said.