Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Somalia News Update: Mortar Attack on MPs in Mogadishu; Ethiopians Enter South and Central Regions

Mortar attack on MPs in Somalia

At least eight people have died in a day of violence in Somalia which saw mortars fired at MPs meeting for the first time since August.

No MPs were killed in the attack but witnesses say three civilians died as government forces retaliated and shells hit a radio station.

A separate roadside bomb killed at least five people, officials say.

Hard-line Islamist groups are battling Somalia's UN-backed government, which controls only a few parts of Mogadishu.

The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says the mortar attack spread fear among MPs.

But he says the parliament is a concrete building protected by African Union tanks and hundreds of government troops - so the MPs were not in as much danger as people outside the compound.

Eyewitnesses said three shells hit a local radio station, killing the station director's wife and two other people.

At least 17 people were injured by the mortars.

Earlier in the day a roadside bomb targeted the car of a government minister, who had defected from the insurgency. The minister was not in the car at the time, but five other people were killed.

The day of violence comes weeks after a suicide bomber killed three ministers at a ceremony for newly graduated doctors.

Rebels from the al-Shabab group have denied carrying out that attack but have been behind other suicide attacks on government targets.

They are accused of links to al-Qaeda.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/12/21 15:55:36 GMT

Dec 21, 2009 - 1:12:09 PM

Fighting erupts in southern Somali tow

Somalia’s hardline insurgent Al-Shabaab group claims that they have fought with an Ethiopian rebel group in Somali southern border town of Dhobley.

According to a senior Al-Shabaab official, the fighting broke out on Saturday between the group’s militia that control the town and fighters from Ogaden National Liberation Fronts (ONLF), which fights in eastern Ethiopia.

“We have attacked the ONLF militia to stop them from attacking and seizing Dhobley town,” said the official who requested anonymity.

The official said the fighting continued for an hour and they have inflicted heavy casualties on their rivals, adding that they have received the support of the locals to devastate the ONLF militia led by Sheikh Ahmed Madobe.

Sources told Garowe Online that at least 10 people, mostly combatants from both sides have been killed and over a dozen others injured in the fighting.

However, eyewitnesses in town, which strategically situated between Somalia and Kenya border, have confirmed the eruption of the fighting but could not comment about the casualty figures.

Al-Shabaab has previously fought with Hizbul Islam, another Somali militant over the town but has since claimed that Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, whom they consider part of the Ethiopian rebel group and not Hizbul Islam, instigated the fight.


Dec 21, 2009 - 1:12:09 PM

Ethiopian troops back in Somalia

Heavily armed Ethiopian troops with several army trucks have reportedly crossed the border into central Somali regions of Hiran and Galgadud, residents and reports said.

Residents of Balanbale town in central Galgadud region said they have seen Ethiopian military forces backed by army vehicles in the outskirts of the town.

One resident said the troops have dug trenches in positions without prior notice of the elders.

Ethiopian troops have also crossed the border and reached Kalabeyr town in Hiran region, about 22km (14 miles) from the Somali-Ethiopian border, according to locals.

A resident told Garowe Online “a lot of troops arrived in the area on early Saturday and have started making military manoeuvring.”

Ethiopian troops have in the past carried out military incursion into central Somalia to oust Islamist militant groups fighting the embattled UN-backed Somali government.

Since withdrawing from Somalia early this year, Addis Ababa amassed its troops along the border and kept watchful eye on political development in the war-torn country.


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