Troops fire on Mogadishu protest, kill 3: witness
MOGADISHU (Reuters)January 22 – Ethiopian troops and Somali police opened fire on Mogadishu demonstrators on Monday, killing at least three in the latest violence in parts of the capital where support for ousted Islamists ran high, a witness said.Protesters hurled stones and some fired back with assault rifles at the joint security forces, said a local journalist who asked not be to named. At least five people were wounded.
The witness said Ethiopian troops returned to a livestock market in the north of the coastal city where an attack on an Ethiopian military convoy triggered a heavy battle on Saturday.
“The Ethiopians used something like a bazooka to break down the gate of a house in the area, then they arrested two men inside,” the reporter said. “Locals began throwing stones at them, some shot rifles, and then the Ethiopians returned fire.
Three men were killed at the scene, he said.
Hundreds of demonstrators chanted anti-Ethiopian slogans, burned barricades of tyres in the streets and stoned vehicles carrying local journalists.
At least four civilians were killed in the area on Saturday after the latest of several guerrilla-style attacks launched by suspected remnants of the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC).
The Islamists were chased out of strongholds in Mogadishu and much of the south over the New Year by a combined force of Somali soldiers and Ethiopian tanks, troops and fighter jets.
Ethiopia now wants to withdraw its troops, and on Monday a Somali government source said its foreign minister, Seyoum Mesfin, met President Abdullahi Yusuf at the capital’s Villa Somalia compound, which was pounded by mortars on Friday.
HUNT FOR ISLAMISTS
As the Islamists vow to fight on against Yusuf’s government and its Ethiopian allies, the African Union (AU) has approved a nearly 8,000-strong peacekeeping force for Somalia.
But many doubt its capacity to muster such a force, let alone tame a nation that defied the combined efforts of U.S. and U.N. peacekeepers in the early 1990s. Diplomats fear a vacuum if peacekeepers do not arrive before Ethiopia leaves.
Government and Ethiopian forces are hunting SICC leaders and some of their foreign supporters, who fled south toward the Kenya border after being routed from the capital.
On Saturday, Kenya sent about 30 prisoners shackled hand and foot to Mogadishu after arresting them near the frontier on suspicion of belonging to the Islamic Courts.
A lawyer said the deportees included a Canadian and three Eritreans, and on Monday a Kenyan newspaper said a dozen other suspected Islamists had been detained over the weekend trying to enter Kenya through the Lamu archipelago.
Kenyan government officials were not immediately available to comment on the Daily Nation report, which said one suspect was holding a U.S. passport, two had British passports and the others carried Syrian, Yemeni and Saudi Arabian passports.
There was no word either from Washington on a report by a freelance Somali journalist who said on Sunday he had seen U.S. troops in southern Somalia working with Ethiopian forces there.
Rumors have swirled for days that U.S. personnel were inside the country since a January 8 air strike aimed at al Qaeda suspects believed to be among the Islamists. It was Washington’s first overt military engagement in Somalia since 1994.
But there has been no official confirmation of a U.S. ground presence, which would be sure to inflame political passions in the country and across the region, where Muslims often complain of discrimination in the name of the “war on terror.”