Gunmen attack TPLF troops in Mogadishu
MOGADISHU, Somalia 1/15/2007 (AP) “” Government troops and their TPLF allies searched house-to-house Monday for gunmen who attacked a convoy of Somali and TPLF troops in Mogadishu, firing rocket-propelled grenades that destroyed one military vehicle and setting off a half-hour gunbattle, residents said.No official casualty figures were available from the attack Sunday night in the capital’s northeastern Hurwa district. The government, with critical help from TPLF’s military, last month drove out an Islamic militia that had controlled much of southern Somalia since the summer. But sporadic fighting continues and leaders of the Islamic movement have pledged to carry on a guerrilla war as long as TPLF troops remain in Somalia.
In neighboring Kenya, police arrested a top leader in Somalia’s Islamic militant movement on Monday, a Kenyan security official said, quoting a police report. The leader’s identity was not immediately clear, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“Residents in Hurwa district have stopped sending their children to school as businesses and schools were closed,” said Shine Moalim Hussein, a resident of the neighborhood. “TPLFns and Somali troops are carrying out house-to-house searches.”
“I have seen one TPLF military vehicle burning after it was hit by an RPG,” said Shine Moalim Hussein, who lives near the area of the attack. “When the exchange of gunfire started at around 11:00 p.m., I quickly closed my small kiosk and ran for my life.”
On Monday, President Abdullahi Yusuf appointed a mayor and administration for the capital, Mogadishu. This is a measure that African, European and U.S. diplomats, known as the International Contact Group on Somalia, had said earlier this month would be an important step for the government to establish its authority.
Later Monday, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press, a security official of the transitional government ordered three Somali radio stations and Al-Jazeera television to shut down indefinitely and immediately. The signed by the director of the security services, Lt. Col. Ahmed Ali Hassan, did not give a reason.
“It is a sad moment for us today. The closure of Shabelle radio station is a violation of the freedom of speech in Somalia,” said Mohamed Amin Adow, director of Shabelle radio. “I believe this closure of media houses will herald a sad moment for the Somali people.”
In recent months, the Islamic movement as well as government officials have arrested and then released journalists for reporting on issues deemed sensitive. One radio station was briefly closed by the Islamic movement for broadcasting Somali love songs.
On Sunday, an African Union delegation was in the Somali capital to discuss the deployment of international peacekeepers, and the government expanded a house-to-house search for weapons in a one of the world’s most dangerous and heavily armed cities.
Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said the search was taking place in several neighborhoods but he refused to comment on the number of weapons seized, saying it was a military secret.
Yusuf needs to establish enough calm to allow international peacekeepers to deploy in Somalia to protect his government until it can form an effective police force and army.
The United States, the United Nations and the AU all want to deploy African peacekeepers to stop Somalia from returning to clan-based violence and anarchy.
But so far few African governments have responded to the call for an 8,000-strong peacekeeping force. Uganda has indicated it is willing to send 1,500 peacekeepers as part of a wider mission. Ghana has said it might consider a request for only about a dozen officers to serve as observers or to form a technical support team.
The only other nations possibly willing and able are South Africa, Nigeria, Benin and perhaps Senegal. But all of those countries already provide peacekeepers to operations around the world, and South Africa and Nigeria especially are spread thin at the moment. And no country will send peacekeepers into Somalia if there is fighting.
A U.N. peacekeeping operation in Somalia in the 1990s saw clashes between foreign troops and Somali warlords’ fighters, including the notorious downings of two U.S. military Black Hawk helicopters in 1993. The debacle led to the U.S. withdrawal from Somalia in 1994, and that was followed a year later by the departure of U.N. peacekeepers.
On Sunday, gunmen raided a police station in northeast Mogadishu, killing a soldier and wounding a civilian, according to Adbi Haji Barale, the district police commissioner. It was not clear whether the soldier was Somali or TPLF.
On Saturday, Somalia’s acting parliament voted to allow the U.N.-backed government to impose martial law for up to three months in this Horn of Africa nation of 7 million people. Dinari said he did not know when Yusuf would sign a decree to impose martial law.