Somali hospital hit by shells after continued unrest

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the internationally recognized government of the former state of Somalia, could not stop an attack conducted by insurgents in the capital as they shelled the city's port; but, some rounds fell short which led to dozens of casualties.

Late last week, Somali insurgents conducted a mortar attack in downtown Mogadishu missing their intended target at the city's seaport; instead, hitting a veteran's hospital killing between 6 and 9 former soldiers and wounding at least 12 others. Many of the hospital's patients are veterans from Somalia's 1977 conflict with Ethiopia in the Ogaden, according to government spokesman Shiek Abdirisaq Qeylow. The disabled veterans were gathering and chatting in the hospital's courtyard ready for the iftar (Futuru), the feast that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast observed during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, when the shells fell, according to the Associated Free Press. Their home, De Martino Hospital, was collateral damage in what was meant to be an attack on the seaport according to Mohamed Abdiazis, a Somali Policeman. Victims were taken to the Medina Hospital which is where four of the victims died. Eyewitnesses said that several rounds hit the seaport and the main jail.

Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Al-Shabab, the militant youth group that has now taken the reigns of the insurgency in Somalia after the dissolution of the Islamic Courts Union, is widely suspected. Al-Shabab seeks to institute the strictest sense of Shari'a Law in Somalia and is a seam of contention for their participation in the government. Earlier this year, the newly elected Somali President agreed to implement tenets of Shar'ia into the nation's statutory codes, however negotiations quickly broke down over the details.

While the TFG has made attempts to quell violence in the capital and in other parts of Somalia, little success has been realized. The government relies on assistance from the African Union to maintain some semblance of order in Mogadishu. Parts of the country like Somaliland in the north have claimed de-facto independence in the absence of a central government capable of protecting all parts of the country.