At least twelve die in Mogadishu attacks

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Map showing location of Mogadishu in Somalia

Early on Friday, Islamic insurgents fought with African peace-keepers and the Somali army in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, killing twelve people. The battle raged on for hours, according to sources. The al-Shabaab group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Twelve civilians were killed in the incident, while 25 were injured. The Hodan Wardhigley and Howl Wadag districts were the worst hit. Medical authorities claimed that the deaths had occurred when mortar fire had burnt their houses. The fire came from both the insurgents and the peace-keepers, according to the officials. Ali Musa, one of the officials of a volunteer ambulance service in Mogadishu, said that a mother and her two children had died during the firing.

The attack commenced on 2 AM, Friday. Awakened by mortar explosions, residents hid inside their houses, while others left for safer places. The battle went on for hours and the sound of the firing emanated to all parts of the Somali capital.

This was the most intense fighting in months, claim residents. "I thought I was dreaming when I heard the sound of the artillery," said Asha Abdulle, Mogadishu resident, while Ahmed Hashi said that the fighting was the "worst in months." Nurta Hussein, another resident said: "We were woken up by the explosions at 2 a.m. and haven't slept since because of the non-stop shelling. Two mortar bombs landed in this neighborhood, killing four civilians and wounding six."

We were woken up by the explosions at 2 a.m. and haven't slept since because of the non-stop shelling. Two mortar bombs landed in this neighborhood, killing four civilians and wounding six.

—Nurta Hussein, resident of Mogadishu

Almost 20,000 Somali civilians have died since 2007, as a result of multiple insurgent attacks. Almost 1.5 million have been forced to leave the country since that time.

The al-Shabab as well as another group, called Hizbul Islam, claimed responsibility in a statement they released. They successfully attacked "the strongholds of the enemies of Allah," claimed the statement. "The mujahideen attacked AMISOM and government bases last night and we killed some of their troops. When we pulled back, AMISOM began intentionally shelling residential areas. We shall keep on targeting them," said the attackers. However Somali officials called the attack "small and careless."

Mogadishu's "Kilometer Four" area was one of those affected. It includes a square that connects the airport to the port. While the area has been attacked several times previously, this attack is said to be the worst. African Union peace-keepers from Uganda are posted there.

The fighting comes almost a year since Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was sworn in as the nation's new president.

Al-Shabaab is considered a terrorist body by the United States; the latter blames it for multiple attacks, shootings and bombings inside Somalia.

Al-Shabaab has also threatened other African countries, including Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Eritrea, Ghana, Sudan and Uganda.

An African Union soldier, on a condition of anonymity, said that one Ugandan soldier was killed in the clash. He added that another soldier was wounded. A Somali government official backed this claim. Earlier, on Monday, two AU soldiers had died in another mortar attack in an AU clinic.

When contacted through telephone, Somalia's Defence Minister, Sheikh Yusuf Mohammad Siad, who is a former warlord (also known as "Inda'ade" or "white eyed") said more than ten insurgents had died in the clash.

Parts of the Shabaab group have connections with al-Qaeda. The former has regularly attacked different parts of Somalia, with suicide bombers and several insurgents, taking advantage of the weak political and military infrastructure of the country.

The incident occurred exactly an year following President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed election to the parliament. The government was set to celebrate its first anniversary with a parade and poetry recitations at the presidential palace, named Villa Somalia. It was not known whether the attack intentionally collided with this event. However, it was a reminder of Somalia's weak military power; the army was heavily dependent on the African troops in this attack as well.

For over two decades, the country has had no central government. This has led to warlords ruling the nation, which often suffers from attacks by militant groups and pirate ships.

During an African Union (AU) summit Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, Ali Jama' Jangeli, Somali Foreign Minister, requested more African Union troops to assist other soldiers in the capital. Both Kenya and Sudan backed Jangeli; Djibouti answered the call and promised to send 450 soldiers soon.

"The situation in Somalia is very grim, it is very precarious. It is threatening stability in the whole of the east Africa region and the Horn of Africa. It is in our interest as a region ... also in the interest of Africa to contribute more troops to Somalia so that there is law and order in Somalia," claimed Jangeli's Sudanese counterpart, Deng Alor.

The United States and Western nations are supportive of Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed's government, amidst fears that Somalia would become a base for al-Qaeda and other such organizations. However, the Somali government controls only few city blocks in the country.

Apart from attacks on government forces, the militants have also bombed the country's principal airport. There also has been an explosion during a college graduation ceremony, claim civilians.

Western nations have spent millions of dollars to buy weapons and ammunition for the Somali army. However, since the Shabab group controls a significant part of the country, the Somali government has had limited success. The group has won several battles and displaced millions of Somali people.