HOME About Blog Contact Hotel Links Donations Registration
NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Heavy fighting erupts in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU, Somalia (CNN) -- Mortar fire and heavy fighting erupted around Mogadishu's airport Tuesday during a welcoming ceremony as Ugandan peacekeepers arrived in the Somali capital, according to witnesses at the scene.

Mohammed Amiin, a journalist who witnessed the attack, told CNN that mortars had landed inside the airport and said heavy gunfire could also be heard in two areas of the city near the presidential palace and the former Somali defense ministry.

Amiin said Ethiopian troops and local vigilantes were involved in clashes with insurgents attacking government targets.

A local journalist told Reuters that up to 100 insurgents were battling government troops and their Ethiopian allies with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns.

The journalist, trapped by the fighting in a nearby hospital, said at least two people had been killed, although there was no official confirmation of casualties.

Around 400 Ugandan forces flew into the airport on Monday, Somali military sources said. They are the first contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia -- AMISOM -- charged with helping the war-torn country rebuild.

Around 1,100 further troops are expected to arrive in the next 24 hours. The mission, organized by the African Union, consists of more than 7,600 ground troops, plus police training teams and air and maritime security patrols.

The U.N. Security Council voted on February 20 to authorize the African-led peacekeeping mission, which the world body will help financially support and take over its mandate after six months.

The African-led force will help protect the U.N.-backed transitional government which is struggling to establish order in the eastern African country after more than 15 years without a functioning central authority.

Insurgents, believed to be the remnants of an Islamic movement toppled from power in late December with the help of Ethiopian forces, have staged almost daily attacks against people associated with the government, its armed forces or the Ethiopian military.

Somalia has been largely lawless since 1991, when a coalition of warlords deposed longtime dictator Mohammed Siad Barre before turning on each other.

A U.S.-led mission to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian aid ended after a 1993 battle in the streets of Mogadishu that left 18 U.S. troops and hundreds of Somalis dead.

Ethiopian and Somali troops had boosted security in the capital ahead of the arrival of the Ugandan peacekeepers on Tuesday with residents not allowed inside the airport for security reasons, Somali Deputy Defense Minister Salad Ali Jelle told The Associated Press.

"We are very happy to be the first African Union peacekeepers to Somalia. We are welcomed here," Paddy Akunda, the Ugandan forces' spokesman, said prior to the attack.

"We are not imposing anything on Somalis. We know our mandate; we will work toward restoring law and order in Somalia without targeting anybody."

African Union Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit told journalists the peacekeepers were allowed to defend themselves if attacked, but would not launch attacks on anyone.

"Our mission is to support all Somalis and the political process, which is based on dialogue and reconciliation," Djinnit said in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, AP reported.
Web IntelligenceSummit.org
Webmasters: Intelligence, Homeland Security & Counter-Terrorism WebRing
Copyright © IHEC 2008. All rights reserved.       E-mail info@IntelligenceSummit.org