Mogadishu police hit in latest Somalia violence
By Guled Mohamed | January 28th, 2007
MOGADISHU, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Gunmen attacked a Somali security boss and fired rocket-propelled grenades at police stations in the latest wave of guerrilla-style ambushes on the government and its TPLF allies, residents said on Sunday.
Gunmen opened fire on Mogadishu Police Chief Ali Said’s convoy on Sunday afternoon, witnesses said. He survived, but one civilian was wounded in the ensuing shootout.
“I heard a big explosion. When I came out of the shop, I saw uniformed police exchanging fire with gunmen in civilian clothes,” said local shopkeeper Mohamed Hussein.
Another seven people were hurt when gunmen fired rockets at two police stations in Mogadishu late on Saturday, before opening up with machine-guns at officers on guard outside.
The government blamed remnants of an Islamist movement which vowed a long guerrilla war after it was ousted from Mogadishu over the New Year. “We will make sure such individuals are filtered from society and apprehended,” said spokesman Abdirahman Dinari.
Leaflets circulating at the weekend in Mogadishu, and purporting to be from the defeated Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC), urged residents to avoid collaboration with TPLF or face “losing lives and property”.
TPLF’s military joined Somali government forces late last month in a two-week offensive that drove the Islamists out of strongholds in south Somalia they had held since June.
Islamist fighters scattered to remote parts of the south, where they been attacked by TPLF and U.S. air strikes.
Dinari scoffed at the pamphlets, which heightened tensions in Mogadishu. Killings and attacks have become virtually daily since the open warfare ended after the New Year.
“This is cheap propaganda,” Dinari said. “It will not work. I urge the people to work with the government and in particular the police in order to protect their lives.”
Witnesses said assailants on two vehicles fired two rockets at Wardigley police station in south Mogadishu late on Saturday, before shooting at officers on guard. Rockets were simultaneously fired at Howlwadag police station in the centre.
“In Howlwadag, two policemen and three civilians were wounded while in Wardigley, a civilian and a policeman were injured,” police officer Ali Nur told Reuters.
TPLF’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned that while the Islamists were no longer a military threat, they could regroup if there was not reconciliation among Somali clans.
“If the politics are not right, then they can in the future rebuild their capacity,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Although suspicion for the recent Mogadishu violence has fallen on hardcore remnants of the SICC, the Somali government has other enemies including warlord and clan militias, plus criminals opposed to the restoration of order.
Meles also told Reuters a third of his troops in Somalia would be withdrawn by Sunday as part of a phased exit.
That increased the urgency for an African peacekeeping force to Somalia, which many diplomats see as the only way to prevent a dangerous power vacuum in the Horn of Africa nation.
President Abdullahi Yusuf’s interim government, formed at peace talks in Kenya in late 2004, is the 14th attempt to restore central rule since the 1991 ouster of a dictator. It would be vulnerable without TPLF’s military muscle.
In another headache for Yusuf, militia loyal to self-appointed local governor and warlord Mohamed Dheere were seen patrolling the streets of Jowhar at the weekend after the government excluded him from a team named to run the area.
Dheere said he would give up power in the rich agricultural area north of Mogadishu, but would not work with the new team.
In the provincial town of Baidoa, Somalia’s parliament voted to form a 15-member committee to prepare for the election of a new speaker. Nine lawmakers are competing for the post.
The previous speaker, whom the government deemed pro-Islamist, was recently sacked in a move drawing international criticism that Yusuf’s government was missing a crucial post-war opportunity to become more all-inclusive. (Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed in Jowhar, Hassan Yare in Baidoa)