Somali Government Compound Hit by Grenade
KISMAYO, Somalia, Jan. 4 “” A hand grenade was tossed into a government compound today in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, in yet another sign of a growing insurgency as security seems to be unraveling across the country.
Just days after Ethiopian-led troops helped rout Somalia’s once powerful Islamist forces and install a new government in the capital, violence is surging in the form of anti-government attacks and increased banditry, both of which were mostly unheard of during the Islamists’ short-lived reign.
Witnesses said that shortly after nightfall, a man in a pickup truck flung a grenade over a wall and into a compound that housed Ethiopian and government soldiers. Apparently, no one was seriously hurt and the pickup truck escaped in a blaze of gunfire.
In northern Mogadishu, residents said that four people were killed Wednesday night after bandits fired a bazooka at a truck whose driver refused to pay an extortion tax. Unauthorized checkpoints have popped up all over the city, reminiscent of the years of anarchy when clan-based militias carved up Mogadishu and much of the rest of Somalia.
In Dhagtur, in central Somalia, Shabelle radio reported today that five people, including two children, were killed by a tribal militia during a gun battle. A dispute over a well was cited as the possible cause.
But despite the thickening bloodshed, Somalia’s newly-empowered transitional government is not slowing down. Today, Ali Mohammed Gedi, the veterinarian-turned-prime minister, appointed more than 30 new judges, including two women.
“Quite soon, the police stations in Mogadishu will be operational,”? Mr. Gedi said. “If a criminal is arrested, the police will have the access to put the criminal on trial.”?
It sounds simple, but since Somalia’s central government collapsed in 1991, the wheels of justice have rusted over, with few functioning police stations, jails or courts. Mr. Gedi also pushed ahead with his disarmament plan, extending today’s deadline by two more days and threatening house-to-house searches if people did not turn in their guns.
In Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said today that his country was ready to volunteer about 800 soldiers to serve as peacekeepers in Somalia. The African Union is trying to cobble together a peacekeeping force to take the place of Ethiopian troops and lend much needed muscle to the transitional government.
The transitional government is still battling the last remnants of the Islamist forces, who have fled to a remote, heavily-forested area in southern Somalia along the Kenyan border. Somali officials said that several hundred Islamist fighters were cornered and it was only matter of days until the Islamist movement, which had ruled much of Somalia for the past six months until Ethiopian forces intervened, was finished for good.
Mohammed Ibrahim and Yusuuf Maxamuud contributed reporting from Mogadishu.