Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Somalia News Update: Five Killed, Seven Injured in Mortar Exchange

Five killed, seven injured in Mogadishu fire exchange


MOGADISHU. Five people were killed and seven injured in a mortar exchange between Somali government troops and Islamist insurgents, residents and medics said yesterday.

Thousands of civilians have died during three years of fighting between Somalia’s almost powerless interim government and hardline Islamists linked to Al Qaeda who are imposing a harsh version of sharia law on the anarchic nation.

The country has had no effective central government for 19 years and the UN-backed administration of President Sheikh Ahmed Sharif controls just a few blocks of the capital.

Fighting has killed more than 21 000 people since the start of 2007.

"We collected two dead bodies and four injured yesterday in and around Bakara market," Ali Muse, an ambulance service co-ordinator, told Reuters.

Residents in Mogadishu’s Towfiq area said they saw the bodies of three suspected insurgents being pulled from a house they had lived in.

"Three dead men’s bodies were removed from a house in our village," Muse, a resident in Towfiq, told Reuters.

"A mortar shell struck their house and smoke was rising over it when they were evacuated."

Mohamed Abdullahi, a resident of north Mogadishu, said three people were injured after a mortar landed where they were taking cover from the heavy shelling on Monday night.

Western security experts say the failed Horn of Africa state has become a safe haven for hardliners, including foreign jihadists, who are using it to plot attacks across the region and beyond.

Human Rights Watch said on Monday that Western powers and the United Nations have been quick to condemn civilian killings by Somali Islamist fighters, but have turned a blind eye to abuses by government troops and African Union soldiers.

"The US government has sent mortars to transitional government forces in Mogadishu even though no party to the fighting has used the weapons in accordance with the laws of war," the rights group said in a statement.

Kenya was guilty of recruiting Somali youths from refugee camps to be fighters, contravening the humanitarian status of the camps, the group said.

HRW also accused the rebels of brutally repressing Somalis in the vast regions of south and central Somalia that they control. The group said that while al Shabaab had brought a degree of stability to areas they controlled, they routinely killed civilians and meted out harsh punishments including amputation.

It cited cases of women being flogged or jailed for selling tea to support their families because the work brought them into contact with men. — Reuters.

Pirates seize vessels


BRUSSELS. — Pirates have seized three Thai fishing vessels with a total of 77 crew and were taking them toward the coast of Somalia, a spokesman for the EU naval force in the area yesterday.

"The three vessels were attacked by pirates about 2 222 kilometres from the Somali coast," EUNAVFOR spokesman commander John Harbour said.

"It’s the furthest east that any attack and any hijacking has taken place, certainly since EUNAVFOR arrived in the area December 2008," he said.

The crew members seized in the attack, which took place on Sunday, were all Thai, he said. "I can say, having confirmed through the owner, that all the crew are safe and well. The vessels are presently on a heading towards the Somali coast. EUNAVFOR will continue to monitor the situation," Harbour added.

Since 2008, an international flotilla of warships has been patrolling the Gulf of Aden, one of the globe’s busiest maritime trade routes, to stop Somali pirates from hijacking commercial vessels. — AFP.

No comments: