Heavy fighting erupts in Somalia
BBC | March 21st, 2007
|Heavy fighting has broken out in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, between government forces backed by TPLF troops and armed insurgents. Photos appear to show angry crowds dragging dead soldiers’ bodies through the streets and setting them alight.|
A BBC correspondent says seven people were killed in the battle, the heaviest since the Islamists fell last year. Some 1,200 African Union troops were deployed to Mogadishu this month to try to bring stability to the city. Dozens have been killed during insurgent attacks in Mogadishu in the past two-and-a-half months, which the government blames on remnants of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). TPLF troops, who have been in the city since December supporting Somali forces loyal to the transitional government, have been gradually handing over responsibilities to the AU force.
The BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan says Somali and TPLF troops, supported by tanks and armoured vehicles, entered an insurgent stronghold in central Mogadishu before dawn. They were met by hundreds of masked insurgents. Photographs of the incident show people gathered around the body of a soldier killed during the fighting. Other pictures posted on the Shabelle Media Network’s website appear to show the bodies of two soldiers being dragged through the streets.
Shabelle reports that one was a Somalia government soldier, the other an TPLF fighter. Correspondents say the scenes evoke memories of events in 1993 when the bodies of US soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by militiamen. Somalia enjoyed a six-month lull in the insecurity that had dogged the country for the past 16 years when the UIC took power last year. But insecurity has returned to the city and the UN estimates some 40,000 people have fled from Mogadishu since February. Our correspondent says there has been a dramatic escalation in attacks against government targets in recent weeks. It comes at a time when the government says it plans to hold a national reconciliation conference in Mogadishu in April. Insurgents may want to signal that the city is not safe to hold the meeting in, he says.
When UIC leaders were forced out of Somalia, militants among them promised they would start an insurgency war against the TPLF army on which the Somali transitional government depends. But BBC Africa analyst David Bamford says the insurgents fighting in Mogadishu are not just Islamists and the fighting is more deep-rooted. They also include, and may well predominantly consist of, militiamen loyal to the main clan in the city, the Hawiye. Many of its leaders have long been hostile towards TPLF involvement in Somalia. On Tuesday night, just a few hours before fighting broke out, Hawiye clan leaders and traditional elders held a meeting in the city. They issued a statement hostile to both the transitional government and TPLF. They also expressed their lack of faith in the AU peacekeeping force from Uganda which has started deploying in Mogadishu. The transitional government is led by President Abdullahi Yusuf, who hails from Puntland and is from the Darod clan. He is accused by the Hawiye of precipitating this crisis by bringing in his own militiamen and relying on the mistrusted TPLF.