Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Somali Update: Renewed Resistance Attacks in Capital; Aid Worker Killed; US-backed Forces Retreat

Many killed in Somalia fighting

Thousands of Somalis have been killed or displaced
in the fighting over the past year

Clashes in the Somali capital between Ethiopian-backed interim government forces and opposition fighters have left around 20 dead, including two Ethiopian soldiers, witnesses say.

Mohamud Haji Nur, a tribal elder, said the fighting broke out late on Monday as Somali and Ethiopian troops conducted house searches in Mogadishu's Hiliwa district.

Fighters largely aligned with the defeated Union of Islamic Courts also fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at a former pasta factory where the Ethiopians have a military base.

Ethiopians forces responded with artillery shells that struck nearby residential areas, Nur said.

He said his men collected the bodies of 15 civilians.

Mortar attacks

"Some died while fleeing the fighting while others died in their homes when Ethiopian mortars responding to insurgent attacks slammed into their houses," Nur said.

Ali Bashir Ahmed Siyad, another elder, said two Ethiopian soldiers died in the clashes.

Life in a failed state

Separately, the bodies of two young men were retrieved after Monday's clashes in which fighters attacked transitional government forces.

The fighting took place at a junction near the main Bakara market in Mogadishu's south.

The Somali transitional government, formed in Kenya and propped up by Ethiopian forces, has fought a year-long war against Islamic courts fighters.

Kismayo killings

Earlier on Monday, two foreign aid workers and two Somalis were killed by a roadside bomb near the southern port city of Kismayo.

Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the medical aid group, said three of the dead were working for the aid agency - a Frenchman, a Kenyan doctor and a Somali driver.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991, and most of the country is controlled by local clan leaders, not Somalia's interim government.

Thousands of Somalis were killed last year in fighting, mostly in Mogadishu.

Source: Agencies

Somalia: UN human rights officer express sorrow over the deaths of the aid workers

Wed. January 30, 2008 01:44 pm.
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) Office of the United Nations Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Statement from the UN Humanitarian/Resident Coordinator, Mr. Eric Laroche, on the death of MSF-Holland aid workers and Somali journalist in Kismayo.

Yesterday, four people lost their lives in a roadside attack in Kismayo. In one fell blow, when a landmine exploded, hitting a passing humanitarian vehicle, the humanitarian community lost three colleagues from Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland. A member of the Somali media who was on the sidelines of the explosion was also killed.

It is with great sadness that I offer on behalf of the humanitarian community, a message of condolence to the families and co-workers of our slain colleagues. We are all aware of the violent and risky environment that exists in Somalia.

Brave souls such as our departed colleagues Billan, a Somali driver, Damien Lehalle, a French logistician, and Victor Okumu, a Kenyan surgeon, confront those risks on a daily basis to uphold the humanitarian principles, to serve and protect those in need.

Eight media were killed in 2007 making Somalia the second most dangerous place in the world for journalists to work. Hassan Kafi Hared, the Somali journalist who was killed in the explosion, now adds his name to that tragic list.

Ten weeks ago, on the occasion of the death of another aid worker in Somalia, I said that to be an aid worker in Somalia today is to be a hero. It remains one of the most dangerous places to work, where aid workers are the least protected. The same holds true for members of the media who have been frequently targeted, harassed, arrested and killed. These people deserve the utmost protection – not to be the target of a brutal and cowardly attack. Somalia lost four more heroes yesterday.

We must not fail them by losing hope. The ultimate tribute we could pay to their courage and engagement to assist Somali people is to ensure their deaths were not in vain.

The duties they carried out with such commitment – supporting humanitarian assistance, delivering medical care, providing a voice for the Somali story – were to better the lives of all Somali citizens with the hope that one day, their country would become a land of peace and security.

Eric Laroche, UN HC/RC for Somalia
29 January 2008

Somalia government orders military to quit residential areas

Wed. January 30, 2008 10:56 am.
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) Somalia's interior minister Muse Nor Amin said on Wednesday that the allied Somali-Ethiopian forces have left some of their key bases inside the capital, Mogadishu by a government order facilitate the displaced people to return to their homes in the city.

Speaking in a press conference in Baidao, the country's southwest city, Mr. Nor has described the withdrawal by the troops as a road map of bringing people's freedom back and ending the military presence in civilian areas.

"As you all know, the troops had made their bases in the city centers and civilian settlements, hence it became important to lift the load on the people. There will never be another terror to the people as a result of military presence inside civilian neighborhoods" he said. Adding "only the police would operate inside the capital to restore peace stability,"

Appealing to the Somali people to work with the police in improving peace, the minister told in his statement the police will do their obligation of protecting the country and its people and the military will help when there is a bigger security threat.

These troops will be taken to military bases far from the people according to the ministry, but the minister has not mentioned any specific camps in the country.

Tens of Thousands of IDPs who had fled Mogadishu for the continuing fighting now live in make shift camps in the southern outskirt of the capital.

This is a supportive measure for Mogadishu residents to return their homes in the withdrawn villages who exhausted staying under the tress outside the capital—watching any development from the new administration, but insurgent's swift dominance of these areas will be another distress to the suffering people.

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