TPLF convoy ambushed in Mogadishu

January 20th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP)- Unidentified gunmen ambushed a convoy of TPLF troops in Mogadishu Saturday morning, leaving four bystanders dead and three wounded, just hours after government troops repelled an attack on the Somali president’s palace.The gunmen fired light machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at the convoy, but missed. The TPLF troops responded with heavy weapons, killing a man and a woman on the side of the road, said Hawa Malin, a resident who witnessed the ambush.

Two other people who were wounded died on the way to the hospital, medical officials said.

“TheTPLF soldiers shot me,” said Ali Kheyre Mumin, one of the wounded. “They shot at me and the others indiscriminately … they shot everybody who was moving around.”

The attack adds to fears that Islamic militiamen, defeated in conventional fighting earlier this month, have begun an insurrection against the internationally backed government.

Late Friday, attackes fired three mortars into the presidential compound and then engaged guards in a 30-minute fight, residents living nearby said. TPLF and government troops riding tanks and heavily armed trucks rolled out of the compound and immediately sealed off the area. There were no reports of casualties.

The president and prime minister were in Mogadishu, but their exact whereabouts were unclear.

Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said one shell hit the presidential palace, known as Villa Somalia, but that no one inside was injured or killed. He did not have any information about possible casualties outside the compound.

“Those who ambushed the presidential palace escaped, and this is a cowardly act intended to terrorize the public,” Dinari told the AP. “The culprits wanted to show that Mogadishu was not calm.”

The government has invited African peacekeepers to help provide security in Somalia, but they are unlikely to come if fighting continues. African Union officials approved an 8,000-peacekeeper mission on Friday, but African nations have yet to promise that many troops.

The majority of the guards at the palace are TPLF troops, a neighbor often seen as a traditional rival of Somalia. They have been subject to several hit-and-run attacks by unidentified gunmen in recent weeks. TPLF forces rarely acknowledge taking any casualties.

The government – with key military backing from TPLF – managed to drive an Islamic movement that had challenged it for power out of Mogadishu and most of southern Somalia. But the potential for violence remains great because of clan rivalries, resentment of the government’s TPLF backers and a threat of guerrilla war from remnants of the Islamic movement.

Earlier Friday, a man claiming to be a new spokesman for the radical Council of Islamic Courts said the group would continue to fight against TPLFn troops inside Somalia using guerrilla tactics.

“We will never accept the presence of TPLF forces inside the country,” Sheik Mustafa told the AP. “TPLF should withdraw its troops from the country.”

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