Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Somali Update: Bombers Attack US-backed Occupation Forces

Bombers targets Ethiopian troops in Somalia

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - An attacker detonated a suicide car bomb on Tuesday at an Ethiopian military base near the Somali capital Mogadishu, witnesses said, but it was not immediately clear if there were any other casualties.

"I saw the Ethiopian soldiers shouting at this car to stop, then it exploded," said Abdi Hassan, a local resident who was at the former ranch in Afgooye, 30 km (19 miles) west of Mogadishu.

The blast sent thick black smoke pouring into the sky above the small farming town, where tens of thousands of Mogadishu residents are sheltering after a week of fighting in the city.

Hassan said he saw Ethiopian soldiers running from the scene of the explosion, but that he thought there were few casualties because most of the troops were inside a building at the base.

"It did not look like it caused much damage," he said.

Local officials and a human rights group say more than 250 people have been killed in Mogadishu by seven days of battles between allied Somali-Ethiopian troops and Islamist insurgents.

This article: http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfmid=632982007

Fighting Goes On in the Capital for the Sixth Straight Day

Shabelle Media Network (Mogadishu)
April 24, 2007
By Aweys Osman Yusuf

The situation in the areas where the fighting between the Somali government forces backed by Ethiopian troops and insurgents is reportedly calm Tuesday although the sounds of sporadic gun fire and rocket explosions could be heard in the volatile city of Mogadishu.

More than 35 people, most of them civilians, were killed in yesterday's mortar and rocket exchanges alone. Shabelle reporter, Hirabe, in the north of the capital where the fighting still rages infrequently says shelling halted around 7:30 PM local time last night.

"Jamhuriah, a neighborhood in north Mogadishu was the worst area hit by more than 50 rockets fired by Ethiopian troops based in the presidential palace and former Somalia Defense Ministry in south of the capital," Hirabe said.

In a news conference held in Mogadishu Monday, the country's Prime Minister, Ali Mohammed Gedi, said the battle continues between government troops backed by Ethiopian troops and international terrorists linked to "al-Qaeda".

"The Somali national forces supported by Ethiopian and the African Union troops successfully seized explosives and weapons that would be used by the terrorists. The Ugandan troops captured anti-aircraft missiles from the outskirt of Mogadishu international airport. The terrorists were planning to shoot down airplanes. Until we wipe out the terrorists from Somalia, the fighting will go on," said Mr. Gedi.

The prime minister's remarks were, however, contradicted by the spokesman of Mogadishu's major Hawiye clan, Ahmed Derie, who said the prime minister spoke pointlessly. "He repeatedly used the word 'terrorists', which makes no sense when it comes to the real situation in Mogadishu. The rebel forces fighting with the government and Ethiopian troops in the capital are from Hawiye clan and they are clearly opposing the presence of the merciless Ethiopian troops in the country," he said.

Mr. Derie also admitted that a ceasefire deal which was being brokered by the clan leaders ended in failure.

"The Ethiopian officers failed to positively respond to a ceasefire agreement the clan leaders and other Somali traditional elders were trying to create between the Ethiopians and Somalis fighting in the capital, but I assure you now that the effort remained unsuccessful," he told Shabelle on Tuesday morning after he contacted the station.

Meanwhile More than 16 people were killed and dozens more were wounded in the port city of Kismayu, 500 km south of the capital Mogadishu, Monday after a heavy gun battle between two rival clans, within the Somali government, took place in the town.

Shabelle reporter in Kismayu, Mohammed Ahmed, said the fighting stopped around 2:00 PM local time as the town fell into the hands of Marehan militias.

Marehan clan accused rival clan, Majegten that it invaded the town. In a press conference the clan held in Kismayu yesterday after the fight, the clan leaders said they were still in support of the transitional government, but would not allow that rival clan, Mjegten, to be in control of the resourceful city.

Somalia's Defense Minister, Col. Barre Aden Shire Hirale, hails from Marehan clan, while Somalia president, Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed, hails from Majegten.

Ethiopia attack 'leaves 74 dead'

Gunmen have killed at least 74 people in an attack on an oil field in Ethiopia's remote Somali region, the Ethiopian government says.

Sixty-five Ethiopians and nine Chinese oil workers were killed in the incident early on Tuesday, an adviser to the prime minister told the BBC.

Besides those killed, seven Chinese workers were taken captive, he said.

A spokesman for the separatist group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, said it had launched the attack.

The clashes took place at an oil field in Abole, a small town about 120km (75 miles) from the regional capital, Jijiga.

"We have warned the Chinese government and the Ethiopian government that... they don't have a right to drill there," an ONLF spokesman in London, Abdirahman Mahdihe, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"Unfortunately nobody heeds our warning and we have to defend our territorial integrity," he said.

Berekat Simon, an adviser to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, said the attack was "a cold blood killing, a massacre. It is a terrorist act."

Fire fight

A Chinese oil worker said about 200 gunmen attacked the field.

The workers were employed by the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, part of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

Gunmen briefly took control of the field after a 50-minute fire fight with soldiers protecting it, Xu Shuang, a manager for the oil group, told the agency.

In recent years, China has been working to increase its influence and investment in Africa as it looks to secure energy supplies for the future.

The Somali region - known locally as the Ogaden - is known for its often violent clan politics, the BBC's Amber Henshaw reports from Addis Ababa.

The ONLF has in the past made threats against foreign companies working with the Ethiopian government to exploit the region's natural resources.

The ONLF has been waging a low-level insurgency with the aim of breaking away from Ethiopia.

The incident will also step up tensions in the region which borders Somalia - where there are often clashes between Ethiopian troops and Islamists, our correspondent adds.

Did you witness the attack in the Ogaden region? If you can relate your experience or have any photos, please use the email form below. If you would be willing to speak to the BBC, please include a phone number.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/04/24 15:12:52 GMT

200 killed in fresh flare-up in Somalia


At least 200 people have been killed in five days of fighting in the Somali capital Mogadishu, reports said on Sunday.

Corpses remained strewn in the streets, many of them decapitated and decomposing, and the sounds of gun battles and mortar-shelling rocked the seaside capital, just days after the UN warned of a looming humanitarian crisis.

At least 500 people have been wounded in this week's flare-up.

"My brother was on his cell phone talking with me. He and other people were trying to leave the village as two rockets landed at their place. They are all dead," Ahmed Ulusow, a father of six, told Somali news agency Shabelle.

"The number of people who were wounded by stray bullets and explosions of rockets are increasingly being admitted and the hospital is overwhelmingly full because there are more patients than the hospital can manage," director of Medina hospital Dahir Dhere told mediapersons.

More than 320,000 Mogadishu residents have fled the capital, according to the UN's refugee agency UNHCR, effectively emptying the city of one third of its estimated 1 million people.

A similar few days of fighting earlier in April left up to 1,000 people killed and was labelled the worst fighting in 15 years by aid agencies.

Somalia has been without effective central rule since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre by warlords, which plunged the country into anarchy.

The Islamists, who ruled most of the country for the last half of 2006, brought some stability to the lawless nation, but that was disrupted by an Ethiopian-backed and US-blessed assault by the transitional Government over the New Year.

Artillery, Mortars Shake Somali Capital in Fifth Day of Fighting

By VOA News
22 April 2007

Explosions and heavy gunfire shook Somalia's capital Sunday, as Ethiopian and Somali government troops battled insurgents for the fifth straight day.

The fighting wounded at least four people and prompted more Mogadishu residents to flee the city for safer areas.

A local human rights group, Elman Human Rights Organization, says the violence that flared up Wednesday has killed at least 168 people, including 55 people Saturday.

Residents say the death toll could be higher because many bodies remain on the streets in areas cut off by the fighting.

Somali interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said Saturday the fighting will continue until the Islamists are defeated. He also denied reports that Somali and Ethiopian troops are fighting clan-based militiamen in Mogadishu, insisting the battle is only against al-Qaida-linked terrorists.

Ethiopian troops helped Somalia's interim government drive the Islamists from power in Mogadishu late last year. Insurgents began attacking government and Ethiopian targets soon thereafter. The violence has prompted hundreds of thousands of Mogadishu residents to leave the city.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

Somalia: Mogadishu hospitals in dire situation

Sun. April 22, 2007 09:59 am

(SomaliNet) Doctors and other officials of the few Mogadishu hospitals that are accepting war victims say the situation is at the breaking point with no or little medical supplies. These private hospitals work round the clock to save as many people as possible but their brave and humanitarian work is strained by overwhelming number of war casualties and lack of enough medical supplies. Doctors and nurses along with other hospital employees risked their lives and decided to stay and work while artillery shells are hitting nearby houses. One of the hospitals was hit earlier in the fighting.

All hospitals are now overcrowded and new arrivals are being treated in hallways while shelling seems endless. This war, one of the worst in Somalia may last for months.

United Nation’s UNDP Somalia and other relief agencies are following the influx of new refugees from Mogadishu. However, the most urgent help is needed inside Mogadishu where civilians are being slaughtered and dismembered by artillery and anti-aircraft shells. Many people who could survive if properly treated are dying for bleeding and other injuries every day.

Mogadishu sea and air ports are in the hands of the federal government and can be used by relief agencies to help the suffering victims of this bloody war.

The prime minister said yesterday that all Somalia airports are open for relief supplies and the government is willing to work with relief agencies.

Tue 24 Apr 2007

Somalia burns - but does anyone care?

By Andrew Cawthorne - Analysis

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The carnage and suffering in Somalia may be the worst in more than a decade -- but you'd hardly know it from your nightly news.

For a mix of reasons, from public fatigue at another African conflict to international diplomatic divisions and frustration, a war slaughtering civilians and creating a huge refugee crisis has failed to grab world attention or stir global players.

"There is a massive tragedy unfolding in Mogadishu, but from the world's silence, you would think it's Christmas," said the head of a Mogadishu political think-tank, who declined to be named because of the precarious security situation in Somalia.

Somalis caught up in Mogadishu's worst violence for 16 years are painfully aware of their place on the global agenda.

"Nobody cares about Somalia, even if we die in our millions," said Abdirahman Ali, a 29-year-old father-of-two who works as a security guard in Mogadishu.

Liban Ibrahim, a 30-year-old bus driver in the Somali capital, said: "The world does not care about our plight. The United Nations is busy issuing statements when innocent civilians are dying every day."

The latest flare-up followed a U.S.-backed Ethiopian-Somali government New Year offensive that ended the Islamists' six-month rule of Mogadishu.

In the past month, local officials and activists say nearly 1,300 people have died in fighting between government troops and their Ethiopian allies on the one side, and Islamists with disgruntled Hawiye clan fighters on the other.

Aid agencies have sounded the alarm over an exodus of 321,000 refugees from Mogadishu, and there have been appeals for calm from the United Nations and the Arab League. But nothing like the sort of global mobilisation or concern that would normally accompany events of such magnitude, analysts say.

"In Washington, of course, people are too tied up with Iraq and their own impending elections to pay any attention to yet more news of Somalis killing each other," said a Nairobi-based Western diplomat who asked not to be named.

"And if they do have a snippet of time for Africa, it's only Darfur because of the international dimensions that has taken and the power of the lobbyists," the diplomat added.


Media practicalities are playing their part.

Mogadishu is too dangerous for most Western journalists, while Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera has been shut down. So the news comes largely from a handful of brave locals filing to international news agencies.

Images to shock the conscience are everywhere -- corpses on the street, shattered buildings, wounded babies, refugees under trees, hospital corridors full of blood and screams.

But they are, in large, not getting out because of the dangers of capturing such footage and the few cameramen there.

"The world's media are far away. That's definitely part of the problem," Ali Iman Sharmarke, co-owner of Somali broadcaster HornAfrik, told Reuters.

"But also, the political actors just aren't talking about it. Maybe they believe Somalis have brought this on themselves and deserve it."

Rather than wilful disdain, however, it is splits over what to do with Somalia that are paralysing the world's response.

The West broadly supports the government, but is uneasy at its failure to reach out to Islamists and the Hawiye. There are tensions between the United States and Europe over the degree of support to the government and its Ethiopian backers.

Some Arab nations are accused of sending arms to the Islamists. And in the Horn, Eritrea has just pulled out of the regional body IGAD which it feels is bowing to Ethiopian interests over Somalia.


Michael Weinstein, a U.S. expert on Somalia at Purdue University, said the international community had tied itself up by backing a government without a broad national constituency.

President Abdullahi Yusuf's administration was set up at internationally endorsed peace talks in Kenya in 2004 in the 14th attempt to restore central rule so Somalia since 1991.

"For the major (world) leaders, there is a tremendous embarrassment over Somalia," he said. "They have committed themselves to supporting the interim government -- a government that has no broad legitimacy, a failing government.

"This is the heart of the problem. ... But Western leaders can't back out now, so of course they have 100 percent no interest in bringing global attention to Somalia.

"There is no doubt that Somalia has been shoved aside by major media outlets and global leaders, and the Somali diaspora is left crying in the wilderness."

Additional reporting by Guled Mohamed, Jeremy Clarke

No comments: