Attacks plague Somali capital ahead of peace meeting – Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA)
Mogadishu_(dpa) _ Mortar attacks and grenades pounded the volatile Somali capital Mogadishu on Thursday, just days ahead of a peace conference seen as the last hope for the battle-torn country. (more…)
Mogadishu_(dpa) _ Mortar attacks and grenades pounded the volatile Somali capital Mogadishu on Thursday, just days ahead of a peace conference seen as the last hope for the battle-torn country.
Unknown gunmen launched seven grenades at Woyanne-backed government troops, killing at least three people, while overnight mortar shelling and gun battles left at least four people dead.
“Minutes after the first bomb blasted, another grenade was thrown at the Somali soldiers who were coming towards the first site of the blast. We could not know the casualties because we had to run for our lives,” a journalist named only as Hirabe told Somali news agency Shabelle.
Somali officials did not comment on the violence but residents said it was the worst they had seen since the government slapped down an indefinite dusk-to-dawn curfew last month which has failed to ebb the attacks.
“We found three dead young men in the street junction near our home,” Qali Ali, a resident in Bar-Ubah junction told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
The barrage of mortars came after a five-day government-led operation in Bakara market, one of the world’s largest open-air arms dealerships, where troops had been trying to purge the area of insurgents it blames for the daily violence.
The insecurity has raised fears that a much-awaited reconciliation conference slated for Sunday, seen as the best hope for peace in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, may be postponed for a third time.
“An old man was killed in his home by shrapnel from the mortar round in our neighbourhood,” said Yahya Omar, a resident of Abdel-Aziz district, where the peace conference is set to be held.
Despite the brutal violence, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf insisted Thursday the peace meeting would take place.
“Even if a nuclear bomb explodes in Mogadishu, the conference will happen as scheduled,” he said. Yusuf’s hilltop presidential palace was also targeted in Wednesday night’s attacks, with three mortars striking the residence’s walls.
An EU delegation visited the restive capital Wednesday and promised to return for Sunday’s conference, which, if it takes place, is set to draw over 1,000 delegates.
“We were invited to attend the conference and we will be present,” said Mario Raffaelli, Italy’s special envoy for Somalia, before returning to his base in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Several key opposition groups have vowed to boycott the meeting, and observers have said the conference could lose all legitimacy if they do.
Mogadishu has not known peace since the 1991 toppling of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre by warlords, except for a six-month period last year when a popular Islamist group brought some stability to the bullet-scarred capital.
The transitional government – the international community’s 14th attempt at cementing central rule in the lawless land – has been unable to assert its authority over Mogadishu. dpa mi tg mga gma
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