The Rebirth of Somaliland (7): Operation Birjeex (SNM Rescue Unit)
By Dr. Hussein Mohamed Nur
The SNM had strong networks of cells operating inside the country. The principal goal was to facilitate operations and support networks for the movement. Those networks consisted of a diverse people of different backgrounds including business people, traders, petty street workers, students, teachers, women, employees and professionals etc. of the various departments and institutions of the government and armed forces of different ranks. The latter also included high ranking military officials within the army who acted as a linchpin in the internal operations of the SNM. Colonel Ibrahim Ismail Koodbur was a ranking military officer embedded within the 26th sector of the army in Hargeisa. Koodbur was one of the extraordinarily brave men in the history and struggle of the SNM. He was the main architect together with other SNM officers such as Colonel Abdisalam Mohamoud Jama (Turki) and others.
In April 1983, Abdillahi Askar, Abdisalam Mohamoud ‘Turki’ and others entered Hargeisa as a group to join an SNM inside cell including Colonel Ibrahim Kodbur (a member of the national army as a high ranking officer). The purpose of the mission was to conduct a secret operation in Hargeisa. The original mission was to headhunt high ranking government officials (the commanders of the 26th sector of the army, the NSS, the Hangash and others). Unfortunately, before any action was conducted in accordance with the plan, the unit faced a sudden unforeseen problem. The unit members switched the original plan into a rescue operation due to the unexpected change in the original plan. They had to divert mission as a colleague member, Colonel Abdillahi Barkhad Askar, was caught on 10 April 1983 by the Victory Pioneers (Guulwadayaal) and later moved to be imprisoned at Birjeex military Headquarter, a highly fortified and enforced security prison within the 26th sector of the army forces Birjeex compound. At the time there were preparations for the celebrations of the Somali armed forces day (12th of April 1983) underway.
This happened after the unit had a meeting on the evening of 10th April 1983 at a house owned by Ismail Sheikh Musa Duale. As they finished meeting they left for another location to stay in the night. Abdillahi Askar was left behind. Askar left the house alone afterward and was stopped by the Guulwadayaal on the road on his way to join the rest. He was brought to their center of the so-called ‘Victory Pioneers’ (Xarunta Guulwadayaal) (today’s site of the parliament). Askar was later moved to Birjeex. General Gani, commander of the 26th Sector of the armed formed in Hargeisa planned to bring Askar to the Hargeisa National Theatre on the next evening of 11 April 1983, the night before the celebration of the Somali military day as a show to the public before his execution plan on the next day.
The SNM unit immediately knew of the incident (from reports of an insider SNm cell unit) and urgently organized a small unit with Colonel Ibrahim Kodbur as the coordinator to rescue Askar. The unit consisted of 11: 1. Abdisalam Turki, 2. Said Abdi (said Birjeex), 3. Ibrahim Ismail Kodbur, 4. Bihi Haji Hassan Elmi, 5. Suleiman Said (Yare), 6. Ibrahim Arab, 7. Ahmed Hussein Warsame, 8. Said Kur-Libah, 9. Aden Maal Aqli, 10. Abdirahman Eid Farah, 11. Said Ahmed Dhigane. Kodbur was an insider link man, coordinator and the anchorman who still a high ranking officer in the Somali army. He was leading the activities. He had the rota as the duty command Officer that night. He was our anchor man. They made themselves ready the next day (11 April) late afternoon together with two rescue vehicles and went according to the plan. They enforced entry from the entrance gate of Birjeex straight to where Askar was kept. At first, they met with some resistance from a well-equipped guard and started exchanging fire with the guard. But that was surprisingly shock and awe for them. In fact, the shooting took place in close range and immediately they had the upper hand. Two of their colleagues were hit but were managed successfully to be taken out with them alive together with the prisoner.
Askar was in bad state and completely immobile due to the damages he was received whilst in the hands of the enemy. He was subjected to savage torture and beaten. He was in pajamas. His skin was burnt all over with candles and cigarette butts (as they noticed later afterward). They took the wounded men and the prisoner and swiftly hit the exit gate towards two vehicles parked outside and on standby. However, they escaped in one of the cars abandoning as it had an engine failure. One of the wounded men was Bihi Haji Hassan Elmi. He was badly wounded. They brought him out into a bush of shrubs nearby. Unfortunately, it was impossible to take him with them. The circumstances got out of hand. Bihi told ordered them to leave him on the spot. There was literally no chance to save him. They suddenly sped off towards the south, the direction of the border. At the Masalaha area, the only transport vehicle they became faulty. The engine would not start. Just after dusk and after the Maghrib prayers as they were frustrated but did not lose faith and on dependence on the All-Mighty, Allah, a miracle happened (as reported by Colonel Turki who is alive today – details are available in the forthcoming book of the author ‘The Rebirth of Somaliland’). With the Grace of Allah’s and his permission, they gave the engine one last trial. Upon the first turn ignition and the engine miraculously roared like a brand new machine. They then sped off as fast as they could. They were never spotted by the enemy and therewith crossed the border at Harshin safely.
Sources: Wargeyska Saxafi