U.S. and Italian military aircraft landed in the war-ravaged Somali capital of Mogadishu and evacuated about 400 foreigners in an operation that ended early Sunday, U.S. and Italian officials said.
U.S. military forces evacuated more than 200 of the diplomats and other foreigners from the United States, the Soviet Union and several other countries, the U.S. State Department said in a statement in Washington."The evacuees were flown to amphibious ships, the USS Guam and the USS Trenton initially, and will be taken to a location for onward processing to their respective nations," the State Department said.
U.S. forces landed in Mogadishu Friday for the first time since fighting broke out last weekend. The effort was suspended at least once by hostilities before it was completed early Sunday, the State Department said.
Two Italian C-130s, which had been waiting in Nairobi since Thursday for a lull in the fighting, picked up 120 Italians and 69 other foreigners from Mogadishu airport Saturday and flew them 600 miles south to Kenya.
Among the more than 200 people evacuated by U.S. forces were the Soviet ambassador to Somalia and 38 other Soviet diplomatic personnel and other citizens who were given refuge at the U.S. Embassy after a Soviet evacuation plane was prevented from reaching the capital, the State Department said.
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze spoke twice Saturday with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker to discuss the situation in Somalia along with other issues, said a State Department official, who declined to be identified.
The official said U.S. rescue of the Soviets "speaks for itself" in terms of growing U.S.-Soviet cooperation in the post Cold War era.
Others evacuated by U.S. forces included citizens of France, Germany, Ghana, India, Kenya, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Qatar, the Philippines, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand and Britain, the official said.
The USS Guam and the USS Trenton had been assigned to the U.S. military operation in the Persian Gulf, and the Marines who went ashore in Mogadishu were from Camp Lejeune, N.C., a Pentagon spokesman in Washington said.
The spokesman declined to comment on how many U.S. Marines were involved and where they were headed afterward.
The State Department said U.S. troops only entered Somalia to rescue U.S. citizens and were "not involved in any way in the conflict."
The Soviet news agency Tass quoted a Foreign Ministry official in Moscow as saying the U.S. Embassy offered refuge to about 40 Soviets after their plane was unable to land because of the fighting and the Soviet Embassy began running low on food and water.