The 1984 Ethiopian air raid on Somali city of Borama

Somalia’s state-run radio reported that six Ethiopian warplanes attacked the northwest region of Somalia, killing 40 people and wounding 80.

Misinformation by the Somali National Movement, a rebel movement against Siad Barre’s Somalia, caused this elementary school in northern Somalia to be bombed. They falsely reported it to ethiopian officials as a weapons bunker/military headquarters. Over 30 children died.

The 1984 Borama Air Raid: How misinformation caused a Borama elementary school to be destroyed.

The 1984 Ethiopian air raid on Somalian city of Borama
Figure 1. Some pictures of some of the school children that perished.

In 1984, Somalia and Ethiopia were fighting a post-1977 Ogaden “cold” war, by funding rebel groups in the opposing country. Mengistu Haile Mariam (then president of Ethiopia) funded the Somali National Movement in the north of Somalia, and Siad Barre ( then president of Somalia) funded the Western Somali Liberation Front, and the Somali Abo Liberation Front (a pro-Oromo movement).

The rebel movements would pose significant threats to the other’s nation, causing instability and violence in multiple regions.

Ethiopia conducted multiple air raids into Somalia in the 1980s. These air raids would assist rebel groups against Barre, conduct raids against government facilities.

Unfortunately on January 31st, 1984, one of these air raids struck an elementary school in Borama, Awdal, where over 30 children perished.

The Somali National Movement, one of the rebel groups against Siad Barre’s Somalia, informed their Ethiopian patrons that the Borama elementary school was a weapons depot for Siad Barre, and needed air cover in order to loot a nearby military base. Ethiopia then provided the necessary Air cover, but sadly destroyed the school and its students.

The raids against Borama and Goroyo-Awl were reported as one of the worst military encounters between Ethiopia and Somalia.

Radio Mogadishu broadcasted, in 1984  an emergency announcement by the Somali Defense Ministry that schools, homes, places of businesses, were the targets of USSR MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighter bombers, being operated by Ethiopia.

“These planes also targeted Goroyo Awl, an Awdal village that contained a Somalia military base, a site of SNM raids.” Little damage was reported, and the Ethiopian offenders were pushed back by the air defense forces and Somali military.

As the 37th-anniversary approaches, a small memorial is expected to be held in January of 2021, following covid 19 measures in Borama, Awdal.

Here are the names of the students that passed away on that dark day. May they rest in peace.

Victims of 1984 January Joint Ethiopian-SNM bombing raid on Borama. The first 1-11 listed here are pictured above.

Name Age Grade
1.       Ilyas Ibrahim Maydhane 12 4
2.       Ismail Muse Tuubeh 13 4
3.       Abadir Ibrahim Haji 11 4
4.       Ahmed Idris Ibrahim 12 4
5.       Ahmed Ibrahim Bookh 12 4
6.       Ubah Omar Maydhane 10 3
7.       Anisa Dahir Atayeh 10 3
8.       Mahmoud Mohamed Dahir 10 3
9.       Yasin Dahir Ibrahim 10 3
10.   Abdi Hassan Ali 9 3
11.   Abdi Ahmed Yusuf 10 4
12.   Hussain Mohamed Nur 12 3
13.   Sa’ada Abdulle Farah 10 3
14.   Mohamed Hasan Farah 10 3
15.   Naima Mohamed Hirsi 10 3
16.   Rashid Husain ‘Ige 10 3
17.   Abdi Ismail Hassan 11 3
18.   Mohamed Aw Adan Abdi 8 2
19.   AbdiRizak Sheikh Mohamed 10 2
20.   Sahra Aden 6 1
21.   Faduma Kadarag 6 1
22.   Faiza Ibrahim Muse 12 4
23.   Hibo Ahmed AliYey 11 4
24.   Mohamed Hassan Handuley 13 4
25.   Hinda Ahmed Elmi 10 3
26.   Hibo Barkhad Qayad 9 3
27.   Deqa Yusuf ‘Ige 10 3
28.   Mustafa Ilmi Weyrah 9 2
29.   Abdulahi Nuur Omar 14 8
30.   Ahmed Abdi Barre 11 3
31.   Warla Elmi Subagle 9 3
32.   Su’ad Ali Obsiye 14 7
33.   Ruqiya Maydane Mohamed 10 2
34.   Mohmed Idris Mi’aad 8 2
35.   Khadra Mohamed Hirsi 9 2
36.   Qayad Bakhrad Qayad 11 4
37.   Fadumo Kudarag 6 1

The 1984 Ethiopian air raid on Somalian city of Borama

Figure 2. ” SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL-MILITARY DEVELOPMENTS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA “. In the third paragraph, In 1984, the Somali government reported ground and air attacks from the Somali National Movement and Ethiopian forces in the areas of Awdal.

The 1984 Ethiopian air raid on Somalian city of Borama

Figure 3. An approved CIA document titled “Somalia: Threats to stability”,  details tribal rebel movements against Siad Barre. Published in 1985, it states that earlier ( in 1984) Ethiopia and the SNM conducted Air supported cross border raids into Somalia.

Figure 4.

The 1984 Ethiopian air raid on Somalian city of Borama 1984 Ethiopian air raid on Somalian city of Borama

Figure 4.1 and 4.2: “Arms and Aggressions in the horn of Africa” On September 15th, 1985, Somalia made a public military broadcast on government radio
condemning Ethiopia and their funded rebels, against previous attacks they made on Awdal, Mudug, and North West regions of Somalia, fully holding Ethiopia/Rebel groups responsible for these events.

Figure 5. Below shows Ethiopian and Somali troop/postings.The 1984 Ethiopian air raid on Somalian city of Borama

A brief documentary about the events here in the Somali language.


Written by Joyce Namutosi

Joyce Namutosi is a Nairobi, Kenya based journalist with the local media and The Reporter newspaper. He has written for CNN, the Huffington Post, and The Globe and Mail in Canada.

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