Raid in Somalia May Have Killed Qaeda Suspect And Voilence Erupted In the Capital.
MOGADISHU, Somalia, Jan. 10 – American air raids in southern Somalia may have killed the suspected Al Qaeda terrorist who planned the 1998 United States embassy bombings in east Africa, Somalia officials said today
“I have received a report from the American side chronicling the targets and list of damage,”? Abdirizak Hassan, the Somali president’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press. “One of the items they were claiming was that Fazul Abdullah Muhammad is dead.”?American officials have said that Mr. Muhammad, 32, planned the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 225 people. American officials could not be immediately reached this morning for comment on Mr. Hassan’s remarks.
Earlier in the day, Mogadishu, Somalia’s reliably chaotic capital, exploded in violence after insurgents attacked a government barracks. Soldiers responded by sealing off large swaths of the city and searching house to house for weapons.
The raids immediately sparked resistance, and squads of Ethiopian soldiers and troops loyal to the transitional government poured into the streets, where they battled outraged residents and masked insurgents.
From dawn through early afternoon, the pop of gunfire and boom of explosives echoed across the already bullet-pocked city.
Doctors at Medina hospital said that at least 15 people were seriously hurt, including three government soldiers. Violence in the past few days has quickly filled all of the hospital’s beds to overflowing, leaving bleeding men and women curled up on the floor and under acacia trees in the courtyard.
“This is not something that is going to stop,”? said Dahir Mohammed, head of the interim government’s medical department.
There were also reports that Ethiopian troops, who are in Somalia supporting the transitional government, were taking heavy casualties in fighting against insurgents, including an incident in central Mogadishu where an army truck was blown up by a bazooka.
It seems that the transitional government, which entered the capital two weeks ago for the first time since it was formed in 2004, is facing a crucial test of its ability to pacify a notoriously dangerous city, one that bristles with guns and is split by deep clan divisions.
Most of the violence today was concentrated in strongholds of the Ayr sub-clan, a powerful lineage group that was closely connected to Somalia’s Islamist movement.
That movement was thoroughly defeated, at least militarily, by Ethiopian-led forces over the past three weeks. But many Islamists have vowed to fight on as an Iraq-style insurgency.
As each night passes, more and more government troops are coming under attack. On Tuesday night, insurgents launched rocket-propelled grenades from two pickup trucks into an army barracks in downtown Mogadishu. Initial reports indicated that several soldiers were killed, and the insurgents got away.
The Islamist leaders, meanwhile, have been holed up in a jungle near the Kenyan border. An American AC-130 gunship pounded the area Sunday night because American officials believed that several Al Qaeda terrorists, including Mr. Muhammad, were hiding there with the Somali Islamists. Since June, when the Islamist movement rose to power, American officials have been complaining that Islamist leaders were sheltering terrorists connected to the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Today, residents in southern Somalia said the warplanes returned, though those reports could not be independently verified. The Ethiopian air force has also been pummeling the area for much of the past week.
Many people in Mogadishu said they were beginning to feel as if they were under the thumb of Ethiopian troops.
Barwaqho Mohammed Osman, a mother of two, stood in the street this morning with plastic bags of groceries in her hands and no way to get home.
Ethiopian soldiers told her that her neighborhood had been sealed off because of the raids. When Ms. Osman tried to plead with them, witnesses said, the soldiers clicked the safeties off their guns and told her to go.
“Why did our president bring in these people?”? she fumed. “They are occupiers, and if they keep this up, they will fail at every step.”?
Mohammed Ibrahim and Yuusuf Maxamuud contributed reporting from Mogadishu.