Monday, November 12, 2007

Somali Update: Residents Flee Capital; Leader Forced Underground; Closure of Radio Shabelle Condemned

Residents flee Mogadishu as govt battles rebels

12 Nov 2007 22:43:16 GMT
By Aweys Yusuf

MOGADISHU, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Residents fled the Somali capital Mogadishu on Monday, adding to a growing humanitarian crisis as government forces backed by Ethiopian tanks stepped up efforts to crush Islamist-led insurgents.

At least 70 people have been killed in more than a week of fighting that has driven tens of thousands of Somalis from their homes, residents and aid workers say.

The United Nations said in New York that 24,000 people had fled Mogadishu in the last week, bringing the total number of internally displaced in Somalia to a record 850,000, more than half of whom left the capital this year.

Hawa Amed, a 40-year-old mother of eight, said she had wanted to stay in her house deep in the sprawling Bakara Market, where allied Somali-Ethiopian troops have been hunting for the guerrillas and their hidden arms caches over the weekend.

"But after two policemen were killed outside on Sunday, we had to run," she told Reuters as she left the city on foot, her youngest child strapped to her back. "We are now heading to Madina District ... we don't know how we will survive."

The latest fighting killed nine out of 10 members of one family on Monday. Only a 9-year-old girl survived when an artillery shell hit them as they tried to flee.

Returning from a visit to Mogadishu, European Commission officials said some 5,000 Somalis had been treated for war-related injuries in hospitals there since the start of the year, and that about a third of those were women and children.


Describing to journalists a meeting with a 7-year-old boy who saw four of his friends torn apart by a land mine blast as they played outside, one delegate broke down in tears.

In New York, U.N. humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes said civilians were increasingly bearing the brunt of the fighting.

"I appeal to all those with guns, whether government, insurgent or Ethiopian troops, to refrain from indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks affecting civilians," he said.

Government security forces and Ethiopian soldiers are hunting for rebel weapons in and around Bakara Market, and on Monday the city's mayor, Mohamed Dheere, called on traders to return there and reopen their shops so they could be searched.

"We believe that a lot of wounded insurgents are hiding in Bakara and the surrounding areas," said one senior security officer who asked not to be named.

Ethiopian and Somali government troops have been battling insurgents in the Horn of Africa nation since Addis Ababa helped the interim administration rout a group of hard-line Islamists from Mogadishu in January following a two-week war.

About 1,600 Ugandan peacekeepers deployed in Mogadishu in March as the vanguard of a proposed 8,000-strong African Union force. No other nation has so far sent troops, although a similar number of Burundians are due to arrive this month.

Also on Monday, Somalia's interim government ordered an independent local broadcaster, Shabelle Radio, off the air and briefly detained two of its senior staff.

Earlier this year, the authorities accused Shabelle and other Somali news organizations of supporting the rebels.

"This is an operation against the independent media," Shabelle's acting director Jafar Kukay told Reuters after being released from custody at a police base in Bakara.

(Additional reporting by Barry Malone in Nairobi and Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Xavier Briand)

Somali Clan Leader Hiding After Ethiopian-Backed Government Launches Crackdown

By Alisha Ryu
12 November 2007

The top leader of the Hawiye clan council of elders in the Somali capital Mogadishu is believed to have gone into hiding, after he accused Somalia's Ethiopian-backed interim government of trying to silence opposition. As VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, a government crackdown on leaders of the most dominant clan in Mogadishu is likely to further fuel public anger against the government and its Ethiopian allies.

VOA sources in Mogadishu say the chairman of the Hawiye clan elder's council, Mohamed Hassan Haad, moved to an undisclosed location, a day after he condemned the arrest of the group's spokesman, Ahmed Dirie.

Local media reports say before he went into hiding, Haad had publicly criticized leaders of Somalia's transitional federal government for arresting Dirie, accusing them of trying to silence opponents through force and intimidation.

On Sunday, the police in Mogadishu raided the home of Ahmed Dirie, arresting him, two of his sons, and another clan elder. The Somali Internet Web site, Garowe Online, reports that government sources told Garowe reporters that the police discovered a cache of weapons and explosives in Dirie's home.

The claim could not be independently verified.

A cabinet minister in the transitional federal government, Ahmed Gagaale, says he does not know why the police targeted Ahmed Dirie. But he says he is certain the arrest was not politically motivated.

"The people that have been arrested, if they are not guilty, they will be released," he said. "Dirie is one of the elders and if there is no evidence against him, he will be released, I assure you of that."

Since the interim government took power nearly a year ago with the military help of neighboring Ethiopia, the dominant Hawiye community in Mogadishu has been divided between those who support the Ethiopia-backed government and Somalia's former Islamic Courts rulers.

Haad and Dirie led a group of Hawiye elders in the council, who have been vocal in their opposition to the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia, prompting some government officials to accuse them of supporting radical Islamists, the core group behind a bloody nine month anti-government, anti-Ethiopian insurgency in the capital.

In an interview with VOA, a member of the Hawiye elders council, Abdullahi Sheik Hassan, says Somalis who oppose Somalia's traditional enemy, Ethiopia, are being automatically judged as being enemies of the government.

"We want a government. We are not refusing a government. But Ethiopians, they are killing our children. They are arresting our people. We cannot support that," he said.

Many Somalis in Mogadishu accuse the Ethiopian army of committing atrocities against civilians, a charge the government in Addis Ababa denies.

But anti-Ethiopian demonstrations in the capital have been growing. On Sunday, hundreds of stone-throwing Somalis, including women and children, staged a mass protest in the same neighborhood in north Mogadishu, where an angry mob dragged the dead body of an Ethiopian soldier through the streets on Thursday.

Somalia: ASOJ denounces the closure of Radio Shabelle

Mon. November 12, 2007 10:18 pm.
By Mahad Hassan

(SomaliNet) The Association of Somali Journalists (ASOJ) has strongly condemned the act in which the transitional federal government troops shut down Somali Shabelle Radio in Mogadishu on Monday as in violation of the freedom of expression.

ASOJ expressed its deep concern over the pressure mounting to the radio which went off air after heavily armed government soldiers stormed the station’s headquarter near Bakara market in south of the capital.

“We are very sorry about toady’s action in which the government forces silenced Radio Shabelle,” said Dahir Alasow, the chairman of Association of Somali Journalists (ASOJ) adding that “this is absolutely intolerable action and in contrary to the free press,”

ASOJ called on the transitional federal government to allow Radio Shabelle to resume on air and perform its journalistic work.

No reason was given to the latest closure of Shabelle Radio, one of the popular FM stations operates in Mogadishu particular in Bakar market area where the government troop carried out door to door security search operations aimed to crack down the rising insurgents groups.

ASOJ urges all the warring sides in Somalia to respect the free media regarding obeying to the international law.

It is the eighth time that Shabelle Radio was shut down by the transitional federal government.

In one year alone, eight journalists have been killed in Somalia violence as dozens of others fled the country for their security.

Somalia: Al-Shabab threats to kill Somali journalist

Mon. November 12, 2007 09:05 pm.
By Mahad Hassan

(SomaliNet) The Young Islamic Movement known as ‘Al-Shabab’ in Somalia recently threatened to kill the editor of one of the Somali widely read websites after they accused him of ‘setting flame among the Mujahidsts’, sources say on Monday.

In a statement posted on their website on 9 November, the Al-Shabab said Dahir Abdulle Alasow is a great spy and sought to bring the Islamists against one another publishing fabricated news stories.

The website, which also posted the photo of Dahir Alasow said the journalist spread a news over that the Al-Shabab’s spokesman Sheik Mukhtar Robow Abu-Mansur was fired from the post.

The Association of Somali Journalist (ASOJ) condemned the death threat by the Al-Shabab on Dahir Alasow as in violation of human rights.

“Abu-Mansur emailed and telephoned me many times and threatened that he will kill me and I answered to him ‘you are not closer to Allah than me and you are not the life taker,” said Dahir Alasow, the chairman of ASOJ and editor of

Mr.Alasow, who is now in Nairobi, Kenya in exile, left Mogadishu mid this May after the transitional federal government and Al-Shabab Islamic movement threatened to kill him and had been in Hargeisa, Somaliland for a while.

Similarly, the TFG issued a death warning against Dahir on 13 October this year after he was accused of publishing report on the conflict between Somali’s interim president Abdulahi Yusuf and his Prime Minister Ali Gedi and the president wanted to sack the premier.

On 1st December 2005, two years ago, the Al-Furqan Islamic Courts under the control Islamic Courts Union issued arrest sentence on Dahir Alasow over baseless charges.

Dahir Alasow is known to publish sensitive and untold news stories which made the Waagacusub site more popular among the readers.

Eight journalists were killed and dozens more were wounded in Somalia this year alone while many others fled their country.

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