New era as the US returns to Mogadishu.

At the onset of the civil strife in the Somali capital Mogadishu in January 1991, the US compound was used as the main station to airlift all foreign diplomats to safety.

The large compound was called Sliligga (weird), because it was enclosed by a barbed wire and a concrete wall. Sliligga was easily the most protected foreign diplomatic mission in Mogadishu.

But, as soon as the airlifting of the diplomats was over, looters descended on the fortified compound, carting away every movable item they lay their hands on.

It would take another year before the US mission would come back to life again.

That was in December 1992, when former US president George W. Bush, who died last week, ordered over 30,000 marines to land on the beaches of Somalia.

The mission was not to conquer Mogadishu, or re-establish normal diplomatic relations with the Horn of Africa state, but to initiate a humanitarian operation codenamed Operation Restore Hope.

By ABDULKADIR KHALIF