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DHEGEYSO HALKAN [NPR RADIO]: Pentagon Says it Erred in Al Qaeda, Somali Gunmen Link...
Device found in cave has no Somalia link

From Tribune news services
Published March 21, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon on Wednesday raised and then retreated from the possibility that evidence found this week in Afghanistan linked Al Qaeda to the deaths of American forces in Somalia in 1993.

Air Force Brig. Gen. John Rosa said U.S. soldiers searching a mountain cave had found a global positioning system receiver that had belonged to Army Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, who was among 18 American soldiers killed by Somali militiamen in Mogadishu on Oct. 3, 1993.

But the Pentagon later said the receiver bearing the name "G. Gordon" belonged to a U.S. soldier fighting in Afghanistan. The GPS device was made after Gordon died in the battle, which was recounted in the movie "Black Hawk Down."

The name "G. Gordon" was written on the device because the soldier who used it had adopted "G. Gordon" as his nickname, The Associated Press reported.

The soldier apparently resembles G. Gordon Liddy, the Watergate figure.


U.S. backtracks on Somalia link: Gear found in cave belonged to soldier in Operation Anaconda Detroit News

Pentagon Says it Erred in Al Qaeda, Somali Gunmen Link... NPR Radio

More Latest from SOmalia...

U.S. Backs Off Somalia Accusations

Story Filed: Thursday, March 21, 2002 2:42 AM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pronouncement struck a chilling chord: possible new evidence of a link between al-Qaida terrorists and Somalia, the lawless land some think is a future battleground in the war on terror.

Trouble is, the Pentagon's suggestion of such a link was based on an odd case of mistaken identity.

At a Pentagon news conference to update reporters on the war, Air Force Brig. Gen. John Rosa announced that U.S. soldiers searching abandoned al-Qaida caves in eastern Afghanistan on Monday had recovered a handheld Global Positioning System navigation device with the name ``G. Gordon'' on it.

Rosa said the Pentagon was searching for more details but believed the device once belonged to Master Sgt. Gary I. Gordon, an Army Ranger killed in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, in October 1993.

``There's a couple of conclusions you may draw,'' Rosa said when asked the significance of the discovery. ``In fact, this piece we currently think originated from Somalia will obviously tie -- could obviously tie -- al-Qaida to Somalia.''

An alternative explanation, he said, was that the device might have been stolen and sold on the black market. If that were the case, he said, ``we don't know how it would have gotten'' to the al-Qaida cave.

The real story: It had been used by an American soldier who fought against the al-Qaida at the outset of Operation Anaconda, the largest U.S. ground offensive of the war in Afghanistan. It was lost in the heat of battle March 4 and recovered by al-Qaida fighters, officials said.

The U.S. soldier, a member of the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, had received the device from another soldier in Afghanistan who was headed home. It had ``G. Gordon'' written it because the soldier who brought it to Afghanistan earlier in the war uses that as a nickname, a reference to G. Gordon Liddy, the former FBI agent who helped plan the 1972 Watergate break-in.

Rosa was not aware of these details at the time he announced the discovery and suggested a Somalia link. The Pentagon issued a brief statement Wednesday night saying subsequent research had determined that the initial suggestion of a possible link to Somalia was mistaken.

The episode had nothing to do with Gary I. Gordon or Somalia or an al-Qaida link to Somalia.

An Army Times newspaper reporter, Sean Naylor, was with the U.S. soldiers who recovered the GPS device Monday. Naylor recorded the model and serial number. His newspaper checked that information with the manufacturer, Garmin International, which said the model, GPS III Pilot, was made no earlier than 1997 and the item was sold on Dec. 21, 1998, to Fort Campbell, the Army post in Kentucky that is home to the 101st Airborne Division, the 5th Special Forces Group and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the ``Nightstalkers.''

``That product didn't exist in 1993,'' Garmin spokesman Pete Brumbaugh said in a telephone interview.

The Army Times' managing editor, Robert Hodierne, said Naylor reported that the soldiers who found the GPS unit also found two others at the same location. Two of the three had names on them. One was ``G. Gordon.'' The other was ``Svitak.'' Army Sgt. Philip J. Svitak was among seven U.S. servicemen killed March 4 when hostile fire brought down a Chinook MH-47 helicopter and damaged another. Svitak was a member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment from Fort Campbell.

The soldier with the ``G. Gordon'' device survived the battle.

Before realizing its mistake, the Pentagon notified Gary I. Gordon's family of the GPS discovery and the apparent link to the fallen hero. Gordon, a native of Lincoln, Maine, was a sniper team leader when he was killed in a Mogadishu firefight Oct. 3, 1993. He and Sgt. 1st Class Randall D. Shughart were awarded Medals of Honor for extraordinary heroism. The battle was depicted in the book and movie ``Black Hawk Down.''

Victoria Clarke, spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was asked by a reporter whether Gordon's family was contacted as a humanitarian gesture.

``The first thing I think all of us said when we first heard about this was, 'Wow, this is going to bring up some very sad memories for the family,''' she replied. ``And the first thing I heard several people say when they heard was, 'Before anything, let's make sure we notify the next of kin.'''

Copyright © 2002 Associated Press Information Services, all rights reserved.

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