Sunday, April 01, 2007

Somalia News Update: US-backed Occupationists Rain Bombs Down on Somalia

Mortar bombs rain down in Mogadishu fight

From correspondents in Mogadishu,
April 02, 2007 06:06am

MORTAR bombs crashed into central Mogadishu today and Uganda said its first peacekeeper had been killed there as battles pitting Ethiopian and Somali troops against insurgents raged for a fourth day.

Clan leaders fighting alongside Islamist hardliners called for a second truce in as many weeks, but hundreds more Ethiopian soldiers were reported to be arriving in the city and there was no let-up in clashes that have killed scores of civilians.

Bodies lay strewn in dusty streets, too dangerous to collect amid violence that the International Committee of the Red Cross said was the coastal capital's worst in more than 15 years.

Ethiopian tanks and helicopter gunships pounded insurgent strongholds as Islamist rebels and clan militiamen fired back with machineguns, missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Ugandan peacekeepers sent at the head of an African Union (AU) force last month to help Somalia's interim government restore stability have been caught in the crossfire, pinned down at strategic sites including the air and sea ports.

"Our troops were guarding the presidential compoundv yesterday when it was struck by mortars. One of our soldiers was killed," Ugandan military spokesman Major Felix Kulayigye said by telephone from Kampala.

Five others were injured.

Previous ambushes by insurgents that wounded two Ugandans had already made other African states wary of flying in more men to boost the AU force to its planned strength of 8000. Burundi, Malawi, Ghana and Nigeria have all pledged to send troops.

A Nigerian army spokesman said its soldiers were ready to go once final details were agreed with the AU. He gave no date.

Fighting broke out yesterday with a barrage of artillery shells striking residential neighbourhoods around the main soccer stadium - the site of some of the heaviest exchanges since the Ethiopian offensive was launched on Friday.

Hundreds of Ethiopian reinforcements drove into the city today, passing through the southern outskirts in some 40 trucks, independent Somali broadcaster Shabelle reported.

More had crossed the border from Ethiopia, it said.

The fighting shattered a brief and shaky truce between the Ethiopians and leaders of the city's dominant clan, the Hawiye.

Hawiye elders today called for a new ceasefire, for Ethiopian forces to withdraw and for international help burying the dead and treating the wounded.

Security sources said the AU was trying to arrange more talks between the two sides, but faced massive mutual mistrust.

The Hawiye demanded the UN, US, EU and Arab League urge Ethiopia to stop attacking.

"What is happening in the city is total carnage against the civilians," a clan spokesman said.

Heavy shelling continued throughout the day. Hundreds of people have been injured and thousands have fled the city.

Hospitals were overwhelmed, even though most of the wounded were unable to seek help and doctors were also trapped at home.

Ethiopia said it has killed more than 200 "armed remnants" of an Islamic sharia courts movement that it helped the government chase out of Mogadishu over the New Year.

On Saturday, insurgents shot down an Ethiopian helicopter gunship with a missile. Several dead Ethiopian soldiers have been dragged through the streets and burnt by mobs.

While Addis Ababa seems determined to finish off the rebels, many experts say the attacks could have the opposite effect, turning Somalis further against their Christian-led neighbour, or drawing in foreign Muslim jihadists.

Despite the fighting, Somalia's interim government remains confident a reconciliation meeting of elders, politicians and former warlords planned for April 16 will go ahead in the city.

The administration is the 14th attempt to restore central rule in Somalia since 1991, when the Horn of Africa nation slid into anarchy after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown.

Somalia: Clan leaders issue press release over Mogadishu conflict

Sun. April 01, 2007 09:51 am
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) Traditional elders of the Mogadishu’s dominant Hawiye tribe who had an intensive meeting on Sunday issued a press statement containing six articles after receiving a telephone contact from the Ethiopian military officials yesterday over how to reach a ceasefire agreement as the Hawiye leaders accepted the proposal.

With the regard to early ceasefire between the Hawiye elders and the Ethiopian government on 22 March 2007 in the Somalia capital Mogadishu.

With the reference to carnage, destruction, the massive displacing subjected to civilians and the property destroyed for the last few days, the Hawiye leaders jointly issued the following articles as below:

1. To cease the fire from 2:00pm today, April 1 2007 throughout the capital.
2. Wishing the Ethiopian government to announce a ceasefire and also keep it emplaced.
3. The Ethiopian forces should withdraw from all the locations they had entered through the fighting to let the civilian people back to their homes.
4. Within 24 hours, peace dialogue should be opened to discuss the extent of the casualty resulted from the fighting in the capital.
5. The international community such donor countries, human rights organizations and aid agencies particularly the Red crescent and Red cross to provide help to 1.5 million displaced people inside and outside of Mogadishu and also in the nearby regions. The human rights abuse done by the Ethiopian forces and interim government troops should be taken into inquiry during the war.
6. We are asking for international support to bury the dead people and treat the wounded.
7. The Ethiopian forces and the transitional federal government to release the innocents they had arrested illegally.

Despite the truce announcement, there is a fighting continuing in the Somalia capital as the sounds of heavy artillery and gun fires could be heard throughout the city.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Fighting Resumes in Somali Capital

MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN Associated Press Writer

(AP) - MOGADISHU, Somalia-Fighting raged for a third day in the Somali capital Saturday as government troops and their Ethiopian allies continued a major offensive to quash a growing insurgency by Islamic militants.

Artillery fire and mortar shells rained down on the capital, sending residents fleeing some of the heaviest fighting in Mogadishu since the early 1990s.

On Friday, insurgents shot an Ethiopian helicopter gunship out of the sky and mortar shells slammed into a hospital, leaving corpses piled in the streets and wounding hundreds of civilians.

According to an official count, 30 people have been killed since the offensive started Thursday. But the fighting was so severe and widespread in Mogadishu that bodies were not being picked up or even tallied, and residents said hundreds more were believed dead across the city of 1 million people.

Somali presidential spokesman Hussein Mohamoud Hussein blamed the violence on foreign terrorists, saying al-Qaida has sent fighters here to battle government and allied troops.

"These elements were behind the downing of the helicopter yesterday," he said.

The insurgents are linked to the Council of Islamic Courts, which was driven from power in December by Somali and Ethiopian soldiers, accompanied by U.S. special forces.

Insurgents were firing mortars from residential areas of the city, and Ethiopian troops responded with barrages of heavy artillery. The attacks occurred across the flat seaside capital, and huge plumes of smoke rose into the air.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said dozens of people have been killed since Thursday and more than 220 wounded, most of them civilians with bullet, grenade and other shrapnel wounds.

"The population of Mogadishu is caught up in the worst fighting in more than 15 years," the agency said.

The U.N.'s refugee agency said 58,000 people have fled violence in the Somali capital since the beginning of February.

Islamic militants - who now dominate the insurgency - stockpiled thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition during the six months they controlled Mogadishu. The insurgency will likely last until that stockpile is depleted, or key leaders are killed.

The militants have long rejected any secular government and have sworn to fight until Somalia becomes an Islamic emirate. Clan elders have tried to negotiate several cease-fires, but cannot control the young insurgents.

On Friday, an Associated Press reporter saw an anti-aircraft missile hit an Ethiopian helicopter that had been bombing insurgent positions.

Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another.

A U.N. peacekeeping operation in the 1990s saw clashes between foreign troops and Somali fighters, including the notorious downings of two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters in 1993 - which was followed by a firefight that killed some 300 Somalis in 12 hours. The U.S. withdrew from Somalia in 1994, and that was followed a year later by the departure of U.N. peacekeepers.

A national government was established in 2004 but has failed to assert any real control. The administration, with crucial support from Ethiopian troops, toppled the Council of Islamic Courts in December, but insurgents with links to the group have staged attacks nearly every day.

The United States has accused the Islamic courts of having ties to al-Qaida.

AP writer Salad Duhul in Mogadishu contributed to this report.

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