Weapons Raids In Somalia After Violent Night

Weapons Raids In Somalia After Violent Night
January 11th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Weapons Raids In Somalia After Violent Night

Weapons Raids In Somalia After Violent Night
New York Times
January 11, 2007
By Jeffrey Gettleman
MOGADISHU, Somalia, Jan. 10 — Mogadishu exploded in violence on Wednesday morning after unknown insurgents attacked a transitional government barracks during the night and soldiers responded by sealing off large swaths of the city, searching house to house for guns.
The weapons raids immediately provoked stiff resistance, and squads of Ethiopian soldiers and troops loyal to the transitional government poured into the streets, where they battled outraged residents and a handful of masked insurgents.
From dawn to afternoon, the pop of gunfire and the boom of explosives reverberated across Mogadishu, Somalia’s reliably chaotic capital.
But it is difficult to tell how many people here actually support the growing insurgency against Somalia’s transitional government and the Ethiopian troops backing it. On Wednesday, a group of masked men stood on the steps of a Mogadishu mosque and proclaimed themselves to be Somalia’s new freedom fighters. They were met by jeers.
“Why can’t you hit anything, then?” shouted one woman, referring to a botched grenade attack that missed the Ethiopians and demolished a house. “Were you scared? Were your fingers trembling?”
Regardless of the insurgents’ popularity, or lack thereof, violence is increasing. And the transitional government, which entered the capital two weeks ago for the first time since it formed in 2004, now faces a critical test: how quickly, if at all, can it pacify a notoriously dangerous city, bristling with military-grade weaponry and split by deep clan divisions?
Most of the violence on Wednesday was concentrated in strongholds of the Ayr, a powerful clan-based group closely connected to the Islamist movement that had controlled much of the country until the Ethiopian military entered the fray last month. On the other hand, neighborhoods of the Darod clan, the clan of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the transitional president, were quiet. Many Darod members said they were happy about the weapons raids, especially the ones in Ayr neighborhoods.
Clan rivalries have been the curse of Somalia ever since there was a Somalia. They are the cause of its civil wars, its famines and its state of suspended decay. It seems that this new chapter is no different.
The insurgents are still a mysterious bunch, but they are widely suspected to be members of the ousted Islamist movement. After being routed, the Islamists vowed to fight on as an underground army. As each night passes, more government troops are attacked. On Tuesday, insurgents launched one of their boldest strikes, firing rocket-propelled grenades at an army barracks downtown. Witnesses said at least two soldiers died, and the insurgents got away. But on Wednesday, residents said that Ethiopian soldiers were able to confiscate some guns and arrest several people suspected of being insurgents.
Doctors at Medina Hospital said Wednesday that in the past 24 hours 15 people had been admitted for gunshot wounds, including 3 government soldiers. The violence this past week has filled all of the hospital’s 65 beds, leaving bleeding men and women curled up on the floor and under acacia trees in the courtyard.
“This is not something that is going to stop,” said Dahir Muhammad, a hospital official. “Until the Ethiopians leave, people will be determined to kill them.”
The Islamist leaders, meanwhile, have fled to southern Somalia along the Kenyan border where they are being hunted by Ethiopian troops, with the help of American forces.
Somali officials said Wednesday that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a main suspect in the bombings against American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, had been killed in a recent American airstrike in southern Somalia.
But American officials quickly distanced themselves from that claim, saying they were not even sure Mr. Fazul was among the terrorism suspects hiding in the jungle with the Islamists. They did say Abu Taha al-Sudani, a top aide to Mr. Fazul, and Aden Hashi Ayrow, a Somali terrorism suspect, might have been killed.
An American AC-130 gunship pounded the area Sunday night, the first time American forces have been publicly deployed in Somalia since 1994. Since June, when the Islamist movement rose to power, American officials have complained that Islamist leaders were sheltering terrorists connected to the embassy bombings, which together killed more than 200 people.
On Wednesday, residents in southern Somalia said warplanes returned, though those reports could not be independently verified. The Ethiopian Air Force has also been pummeling the area.
Pentagon officials said Wednesday that small numbers of American special operations ground troops were in Somalia working with Ethiopian forces and gathering evidence from the site of the United States airstrike.
“One would assume that a U.S. ground presence would be required at the least to do the DNA confirmation,” said Roger W. Cressey, a former National Security Council official. “It’s not something you would leave to the Ethiopians, and certainly not the Somalis.”
Thousands of Ethiopian troops are essentially occupying Somalia, and many Somalis are beginning to resent it. Barwaqho Muhammad Osman, a mother of two, stood in a downtown Mogadishu street Wednesday morning with bags of groceries in her hands and no way to get home.
Ethiopian soldiers told her that her neighborhood had been sealed off because of the raids. When Ms. Osman tried to plead with them, witnesses said, the soldiers clicked the safeties off their guns and told her to go.
“Why did our president bring in these people?” she fumed. “They are occupiers, and if they keep this up, they will fail at every step.”
Mohammed Ibrahim and Yuusuf Maxamuud contributed reporting from Mogadishu, and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.

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