WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Marine landing in famine-stricken Somalia has thus far been bloodless, with all early objectives secured, no known casualties and only a few warning shots fired, senior Pentagon staff officers said Wednesday.
They said the only significant fighting was between rival Somali clans jockying for position in rural areas before American control is imposed there.
The director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Lt. Gen. Martin Brandtner, said the 1,700 Marine landing force ashore had successfully secured the airfield, the port and the U.S. Embassy compound in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
The chiefs' director of current intelligence, Rear Adm. Michael Cramer, said the past 72 hours had seen an upsurge of fighting between rival Somali clans outside Mogadishu, but that the situation in the capitol itself was thus far calm.
Brandtner said rival Somali clan leaders in Mogadishu appeared to be keeping their word not to interfere with the Marines.
He said that thus far no Marines were killed or wounded, nor had there been any serious accidents.
Brandtner said the only shots fired thus far in the operation were aimed into the air by a small group of Marines before they detained some Somalis found wandering inside the American defense perimeter.
The operations director said the Marines expected to have Mogadishu airfield operating 24 hours a day 'very quickly' and that they would begin expanding the harbor's current ability to accept only one ship at at time.
He said the first reinforcements from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were expected to arrive in Somalia later Wednesday.
The Joint Chiefs' operations director said the only unresolved question is what the Marines will do next. Their original plan was to push inland to the town and refugee center of Baidoa and secure an airfield there.
But he said that the Marines might instead occupy another airfield west of Mogadishu and closer to the Somali capital. The choice, he said, was purely one of logistical convenience.