Somali gunmen attack Woyannes, kill official – By Guled Mohamed
MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Somali insurgents assassinated a local official on Thursday and attacked Ethiopian troops overnight just hours after a second attempt to start a peace conference was postponed, residents said. (more…)
MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Somali insurgents assassinated a local official on Thursday and attacked Ethiopian troops overnight just hours after a second attempt to start a peace conference was postponed, residents said.
Islamist-led insurgents have been fighting the Somali government and its Ethiopian allies since the New Year when they were ousted from Mogadishu in a two-week offensive.
Large-scale battles have given way to guerrilla-style hits, and the overnight strikes on the Ethiopian troop positions were the heaviest attacks since last month.
Witnesses said two civilians died when the attackers simultaneously opened fire and launched rocket-propelled grenades around midnight at three positions held by the Ethiopian troops, in Somalia to support the interim government.
“It was a brief but heavy exchange,” resident Ibrahim Maalim said. “Gunmen simultaneously attacked Ethiopian troops staying at the old pasta factory, the stadium and the former defense headquarters.”
He said he saw one man killed near the pasta factory, and residents said a woman was also killed close to the stadium. Heavily-armed Ethiopian troops sealed off the whole area.
A Somali jihadist group calling itself the Young Mujahideen Movement claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Ethiopians, saying it suffered no casualties but “it is expected there were some killed and wounded among the enemy ranks”.
The Web posting could not be immediately verified but was on a site used by al Qaeda and other Islamists.
A Reuters correspondent heard heavy explosions and automatic fire that lit up the night sky during the assaults.
“The gunmen hurled two hand grenades at Ethiopian troops staying at the pasta factory,” said Ruqia Ali, who lives nearby. “The troops returned fire. It was a nightmare. A heavy exchange ensued. I had to hide under the bed.”
In a separate attack on Thursday morning, two men with pistols shot dead a district commissioner from the Shibis area of north Mogadishu, locals said. “He was walking alone when they shot him several times. I saw his body lying on the ground, with blood everywhere,” resident Abdullahi Ahmed said.
The flare-up of violence — which also included a grenade attack on Ethiopian trucks that killed one civilian on Wednesday — followed the one-month postponement of a peace conference that had been due to start on Thursday.
The government-organized and internationally backed National Reconciliation Conference, which was first postponed from April, had been intended to bring together in Mogadishu 1,355 delegates from different clans and factions across Somalia.
The meeting was delayed because many delegates have not yet been chosen and the venue, a rundown and bullet-scarred former police compound, is still not ready.
Foreign diplomats had pinned their hopes on the conference as the best way to try to secure lasting peace in Somalia, which has been in anarchy since the ousting of a dictator in 1991.
The Somali government had no official comment on the latest violence in Mogadishu. But a security source, who asked not to be named, said authorities had arrested several people for the attacks on the Ethiopian troops.
(Additional reporting by Firouz Sedarat in Dubai)