Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

Osman Ali Atto

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Name  Osman Atto

Role  Politician
Osman Ali Atto newsbbccoukolmedia1785000images1789170osm

Died  August 5, 2013, Mogadishu, Somalia

Osman Hassan Ali Atto (c. 1940 – August 5, 2013), also spelled Ato, was a Somali faction leader and politician affiliated with the Somali National Alliance.




Osman Ali Atto Zooming into the Past

Atto owned the biggest landed property in Somalia, including many of the buildings in Mogadishu that were rented to relief agencies and the media. He derived significant profits from a tanker trucking company operating from a strategically situated truck yard at Eldoret, in northwestern Kenya, from which he shipped gasoline to Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. This business was allegedly operated by his relatives. In addition to his Somali passport, Atto used passports from Kenya, the United States, and possibly Italy.

Somali Civil War

Osman Ali Atto Aidid Armed for Anarchy Somalia YouTube

Atto was a manager of an American oil company during the Somali Civil War. Later, he founded his own oil company and reportedly acquired a stake in Bluebird Aviation during the early 1990s in order to import khat from his close relatives who were based in Kenya.

Osman Ali Atto Osman Ali Atto image information

Osman Ali Atto was already wealthy and strategically well positioned when the civil war started in the spring of 1990. Atto had also been involved with the construction industry. He had been able to acquire trucks and heavy construction machinery, making him the only Somali capable of being a reliable contractor for construction projects by Western companies. Among the Somali country managers of international oil companies, Atto was known as "Monsieur Dozer" because of his ability to cut through the most difficult territory and establish access roads to remote sites. His monopoly made him powerful before other faction leaders started to ascend.

Osman Ali Atto Somalia Aideed Ousted By Atto As Faction Leader YouTube

Atto was the khat industry leader during the early nineties', when he was second in command to Mohammed Farah Aidid. Aidid thus became the strongest faction leader. Atto was also said to be involved in trade of hashish from countries in Asia, which was smuggled into Kenya and Tanzania on vessels and small boats. Information indicates that they exported more than 400 kilograms of hashish to neighbouring countries. There has also been information about marijuana plantations in Camba, Jilib and Merere in the Jubba Valley region.

Atto was captured by Task Force Ranger on September 21, 1993, from a location near Digfer Hospital. The Rangers had made an earlier attempt at Atto's capture, but missed him by seconds. In a speech at a church in Daytona, in January 2002, William Boykin, responsible for the operation, recounted, "There was a man in Mogadishu named Osman Atto... He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, 'They'll never get me because Allah will protect me.'" The arrest was later portrayed in the 2001 film Black Hawk Down. In an interview with the BBC, Atto indicated that many aspects of the movie are factually incorrect. He took exception with the ostentatious character chosen to portray him; Atto does not look like the actor who portrayed him, smoke cigars, or wear earrings, facts which were later confirmed by SEAL Team Six sniper Howard E. Wasdin in his 2012 memoirs. Wasdin also indicated that while the character in the movie ridiculed his captors, Atto in reality seemed concerned that Wasdin and his men had been sent to kill rather than apprehend him. Atto additionally stated that he was not consulted about the project or approached for permission, and that the film sequence re-enacting his arrest contained several inaccuracies:

First of all when I was caught on 21 September, I was only travelling with one Fiat 124, not three vehicles as it shows in the film[...] And when the helicopter attacked, people were hurt, people were killed[...] The car we were travelling in, (and) I have got proof, it was hit at least 50 times. And my colleague Ahmed Ali was injured on both legs[...] I think it was not right, the way they portrayed both the individual and the action. It was not right.

On 9 July 1994 the Lower Jubba Peace Conference led to a peace agreement signed by Atto as the Somali National Alliance (SNA) representative and by general Hersi Morgan of the Somali National Front (SNF). However, Hersi Morgan's adversaries in Lower Jubba, the Absame clan, did not take part, making the peace accord stillborn. In late 1994, Atto's car drove over a land mine and broke both his feet.

Atto's war with Aidid

On 15 June 1995 General Aidid declared a government and was elected president by his coalition, but at the same time, his faction split. Atto declared that he was Chairman of the SNA. Aidid's self-declared government was not recognised internationally and was unable to administer the portion of the city it claimed to control. Fighting between the forces of Atto and of General Aidid in South Mogadishu led to 200 dead between April and June 1996 and 150 in July 1996. A son of Atto was shot by a sniper in the so-called "banana war".

On April 27, 1996, the faction of the United Somali Congress/Somali National Army (USC/SNA) which supported Atto decided on a programme to enforce sharia (Islamic court and laws) in southern Mogadishu, where Atto's forces were trying to impose control. A committee was nominated to prepare the installation of Islamic courts and an appeal was issued to Islamic leaders to decide on the religious personalities most suited to head these courts. Islamic courts were already in place in the northern part of Mogadishu controlled by Ali Mahdi Mohammed, Atto's new ally.

The U.S. Department of State asserted, in its Country Report for Somalia for the year 2000, that the killing of Yusuf Tallan, a former general under the Barre regime, was connected to Atto. The report did not provide specific corroboration for the assertion.

According to the UNHCR, Atto was responsible for an attack on 26 July 2000 in which about fifty militiamen in heavily armed vehicles attacked the Mogadishu compound of the NGO Action Internationale contre la Faim (ACF), in which two international staff members (French administrator Francoise Deutsch, and British logistician Jonathan Ward) were taken hostage. They were released after the International Committee of the Red Cross intervened on their behalf.

Militiamen loyal to Atto are also alleged to be responsible for a July 14, 2001 ambush of a World Food Programme (WFP) relief convoy near Mogadishu, in which six persons were killed.

In 2004, the Chairman of the Security Council Committee described Atto as an individual who exemplifies "the interaction between looting and the exploitation of Somalia's resources and infrastructure and the financing of warfare".

Transitional Federal Government (TFG)

In 2006, Atto was involved in peace efforts between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). He told the media that he welcomed the operations by ICU to eradicate all illegal checkpoints formed inside and outside of the capital. On July 27, 2006, 19 ministers resigned, including Atto. Atto said he came back from the capital with an agreement from the Islamic courts that fresh talks be held, but he said that Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi was "an obstacle to progress" and had refused to listen.

On May 30 he was kidnapped by the ICU, who were waging an insurgency against the Ethiopian troops and the Somali government soldiers. Atto was kidnapped by insurgents manning a checkpoint while he was driving to Mogadishu. The Islamic Courts later released him.

Atto died of natural causes at his Mogadishu residence in August 2013.

Airports and checkpoints

The most significant commodity brought to all airports in Somalia is khat, which accounts for 30–50% of the total income for each airport. Daynile airport, located near Mogadishu, generates an estimated $1.5 million in revenues each year. In 2006, shares of those revenues were said to be split between Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, Atto and two other shareholders (Omar Muhamoud Finnish and Ifka Halane of the ICU). Atto collected $4.3 million from checkpoints at Afgooye, a town located about 30 kilometres west of Mogadishu.


Osman Ali Atto Wikipedia