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Abdullahi Ahmed Irro
Native name Cabdullaahi Axmed Cirro
عبد الله أحمد
Place of birth Kismayo, Somalia
Allegiance Somalia
Service/branch Somali National Army
Years of service 1950s–1980s
Rank General
Commands held
  • Godey Front
  • 60th Division
Battles/wars Ogaden War
Awards Somalia Medal of Valor (1979)

Abdullahi Ahmed Irro (Somali language: Cabdullaahi Axmed Cirro , Arabic language: عبد الله أحمد إرو‎), also known as Abdullahi Ahmad Yousef Irro,[1] was a prominent Somali military professor and General.

Early years[edit | edit source]

Irro was born in the southern town of Kismayo, Somalia, to a Majeerteen Harti Darod family. As a young man, his father Ahmed Yussuf Irro and two of his uncles had served in the Italian colonial army. They were among the men forcibly conscripted after the fall of the ruling northern Majeerteen Sultanate (Migiurtinia) and Sultanate of Hobyo (Obbia) during the Fascist-period Campaign of the Sultanates,[2] an expedition which lasted from 1921 to 1929 under the command of Cesare Maria De Vecchi.[3] Irro's mother, Dahabah, was the daughter of a wazir of the Hobyo Sultanate.[2]

Irro spent the better part of his adolescence in Mogadishu,[4] where he was educated in Italian primary and secondary schools. He subsequently studied at the local two-year teacher's training Instituto Universario Della Somalia, graduating with honours. Following the completion of his studies, Irro worked for a few years in the late 1950s as an instructor.[2]

Military career[edit | edit source]

Training[edit | edit source]

After Somalia obtained its independence in 1960, Irro joined the nascent Somali National Army (SNA), becoming the force's 32nd officer.[2]

Irro received military instruction at the Egyptian Military Academy in Cairo, Egypt in 1961.[2][4] He graduated from the college with a Bachelor's degree in Military Sciences.[2] Irro subsequently returned to Somalia in 1964, where he worked in the office of the central command and the directorate of planning.[2]

Irro along with other left-leaning comrades was later admitted to the Frunze Military Academy in Moscow (Военнаяакадемия им М. В. Фрунзе), an elite Soviet institution reserved for the most qualified officers of the Warsaw Pact armies and their allies.[4] There, he specialized in Strategic Planning and wrote many articles on strategy, operations and contemporary warfare, with an emphasis on Proactive National Defense. Irro published several works in Arabic and Russian analysing conventional warfare in Africa, Asia and Latin America, but focused in particular on the various strategies employed during the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistani conflicts of 1965 and 1971.[2] Irro eventually completed the rigorous staff-level training at Frunze, and later received the highest military doctoral degree (кандидат наук).[2][4] Other Somali graduates from the Academy included Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Abdullah Mohamed Fadil.[4]

Somali National Army[edit | edit source]

Upon returning to Somalia, Irro occupied various posts in the Somali National Army. He mainly served as a non-political officer in the planning and operations sector, heading the directorate of planning in addition to similar positions in the 21st and 60th Divisions.[2] Irro worked his way up the SNA, obtaining the rank of Colonel. During the 1970s, he was the Commandant (Abaanduule) of the army's 60th Division.[4]

Ogaden War[edit | edit source]

Under the leadership of General Mohamed Ali Samatar and General Abdullah Mohamed Fadil, Irro and other senior Somali military officials were mandated in 1977 with formulating a national strategy in preparation for the Ogaden campaign in Ethiopia.[4] This was part of a broader effort to unite all of the Somali-inhabited territories in the Horn region into a Greater Somalia (Soomaaliweyn).[5]

Irro led SNA units in the Godey Front, seizing the area on July 24, 1977.[2] Under his leadership, Somalia's 60th Division brigades succeeded in defeating the 4th Ethiopian Infantry Division in Godey, causing it to collapse and cease to exist altogether as a functional force.[6] Godey's capture also allowed the Somali side to consolidate its hold on the Ogaden, concentrate its forces, and advance further to other regions of Ethiopia.[7]

Following this successful operation at Godey, Irro was appointed Chief Commanding Staff Officer in the 60th Division.[8] He was assigned organization and mobilization duties vis-a-vis various army brigades in the Southern Divisions, including six infantry brigades destined for Nagele, beyond Godey towards Bali and Sidamo.[2][4] Irro was also tasked with supplying logistical and technical support, part of the southern command's contingency plans.[4] In doing so, he was facing off against former Frunze Professor, Vasily Ivanovich Petrov, who was the Red Army General assigned to assist and rebuild the Ethiopian Army.[9]

In spite of unreserved support by Cuba and the Soviet Union, it took nearly three years for the Ethiopian Army to gain a full control of the Godey region. Brigadier-General Demisse Bulto, commander of the First Revolutionary Army, recovered Godey as part of Operation Lash by November 1980, nearly three and half years since the Somali Army occupied it in July 1977.[7] Ethiopia's Derg regime would later execute Bulto for his involvement in a failed coup d'état in Ethiopia in 1989.[10]

In late 1979, at the recommendation of the national Ministry of Defense, Irro was awarded the Somali Medal of Valor by President Barre. The medal was issued in recognition of Irro's various contributions to the Military of Somalia. In the years that followed, he went on to become a General in the Somali National Army.[4]

1978 coup attempt[edit | edit source]

In 1978, fallout from the aborted Ogaden campaign culminated in an attempt by several Somali senior military officials to overthrow Siad Barre's administration.[11][12] According to the memoir of the late Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, Irro informed him via a secured communication network that the coup d'état had failed. The transmitted communication contained a coded two sentence message reading "Wife Aborted", dated 11:00 am, April 9, 1978.[13] Irro was arrested a few hours later by the ruling government of President Barre under suspicion of participation in the putsch.[1][4] Most of the people who had helped plot the coup were summarily executed; but others, including fellow Frunze Military Academy graduate Colonel Ahmed, managed to escape abroad.[11] Irro was released from prison shortly afterwards.[4]

Later years[edit | edit source]

Irro later served as a Professor of Strategy at various Somali Military Institutes in the 1980s.[2][4] In this capacity, he helped put together the National Academy for Strategy, and had a hand in formulating strategic training syllabi earmarked for military personnel and legislators. He also played a leading role in forging working partnerships with several schools in Egypt (1983), France (1984) and the United States (1984).[2]

A polymath, Irro remained politically neutral throughout his adult life. He declined various offers to join opposition groups that had begun to form in the wake of the Ogaden campaign, such as the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), Somali National Movement (SNM) and United Somali Congress (USC) led by his former comrades Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, Abdulkadir Koosaar and Mohamed Farrah Aidid, respectively.[2]

Awards[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 ARR: Arab report and record, (Economic Features, ltd.: 1978), p.602.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 Ahmed III, Abdul. "History of Somali Military Personnel". The Horn of Africa Policy Institute. 
  3. Hess, Robert L. (1966). Italian Colonialism in Somalia. University of Chicago Press. pp. 100–169. 
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 Ahmed III, Abdul. "Brothers in Arms Part I". WardheerNews. http://wardheernews.com/Articles_2011/Oct/29_Brothers_in_Army_abdul.pdf. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  5. Lewis, I.M.; The Royal African Society (October 1989). "The Ogaden and the Fragility of Somali Segmentary Nationalism". http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/723037?uid=3739936&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101349584461. Retrieved 8 November 2012. 
  6. Urban, Mark (1983). "Soviet intervention and the Ogaden counter-offensive of 1978". pp. 42–46. Digital object identifier:10.1080/03071848308523524. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03071848308523524. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Gebru Tareke, "From Lash to Red Star: The Pitfalls of Counter-Insurgency in Ethiopia, 1980-82", Journal of Modern African Studies, 40 (2002), p. 471
  8. Ahmed III, Abdul. "Brothers in Arms Part II". WardheerNews. http://wardheernews.com/Articles_2011/Nov/Brothers_%20Part_II_Abdul.pdf. Retrieved 13 March. 
  9. Lockyer, Adam. "Opposing Foreign Intervention’s Impact on the Course of Civil Wars: The Ethiopian-Ogaden Civil War, 1976-1980". http://info.newcastle.edu.au/Resources/Schools/Economics%20Politics%20and%20Tourism/APSA%202006/INTLREL/Lockyer,%20Adam.pdf. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  10. Demissie, Derege. ""Abate Yachin Se’at": Major General Demissie Bulto and the coup d'état of May 1989". Neamin Zeleke. http://quatero.net/pdf/new-book-abate-yachin-seat.pdf. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 New People Media Centre, New people, Issues 94-105, (New People Media Centre: Comboni Missionaries, 2005).
  12. Nina J. Fitzgerald, Somalia: issues, history, and bibliography, (Nova Publishers: 2002), p.25.
  13. Ahmed, Abdullahi Yusuf (2012). Struggle and Conspiracy: A Memoir (Halgan iyo Hagardaamo: Taariikh Nololeed). Scansom Publishers. pp. 120. ISBN 9185945358. 

References[edit | edit source]

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