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Mogadishu becoming ghost city as conflict rages

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Mogadishu becoming "ghost city" as conflict rages

Wed Apr 25, 2007 12:39 PM ET



By Sahal Abdulle


MOGADISHU (Reuters) - The Somali capital Mogadishu is becoming a "ghost city" as residents flee a government offensive to crush Islamist insurgents and clan militia, the United Nations refugee agency said on Wednesday.


Shelling and machine-gun fire shook the coastal city for an eighth day, although residents said Wednesday's fighting was lighter than in previous days.


Allied Somali-Ethiopian forces are battling Islamist rebels frustrating the interim government's bid to restore central rule in the Horn of Africa nation for the first time in 16 years.


The United Nations says nearly 340,000 people have fled the coastal city in recent weeks, many sleeping in the open or under trees. It has warned of a looming health disaster.


"Civilians are still fleeing at a very high rate," the U.N. refugee agency said in a statement on Wednesday. "At least half the capital is deserted, slowly turning it into a ghost city."


Locals, officials and human rights workers say nearly 300 people have been killed in a week of fighting that has focused on an Islamist stronghold in the north of a city which was once home to at least a million people.


Somali media said leaders of the city's dominant ****** clan were meeting Ethiopian army officers to try to find common ground for a ceasefire, but gave no other details. ****** elders could not immediately be reached for comment.


"The shelling is still going on, but it is less heavy than yesterday. But it is still too dangerous to venture out," said one resident who asked not to be named.




For many Mogadishu residents, accustomed to chaos and violence over the past decade and a half, the fighting contrasts with the relative stability during the Islamists' six-month rule, before they were ousted in a war over the New Year.


"This experience dramatically underlines the benefits of the brief period of 'Islamist' authority in southern Somalia which already begins to seem like a 'Golden Age'," Britain's Chatham House think tank said in a report on Wednesday.


"The (government) is simply not trusted by the populace, nor does it represent the powerful interest groups in Mogadishu."


As the battles intensified on Tuesday, a car bomb killed four civilians in central Mogadishu and a suicide attacker struck at Ethiopian troops at a base in Afgooye, a small farming town on the western outskirts.


An Islamist militant group claimed responsibility for both.


The group, calling itself the Young Mujahideen Movement in Somalia, said a Kenyan member named Othman Otibo carried out the suicide bombing at the Ethiopian military base in Afgooye.


"Following this blessed martyrdom operation, a seven-minute clash broke out between the victorious lions of unification (Islam) and the remnants of the...defeated Ethiopians," it said in an Internet statement posted on Wednesday.


The authenticity of the statement could not be verified. It was posted on a Web site used by Islamist militants fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.


(Additional reporting by Sami Aboudi in Dubai)

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Fighting brings fresh misery to Somalia

By Mike Pflanz in Nairobi

Last Updated: 4:07am BST 26/04/2007



Audio: David Blair on the crisis in the Horn of Africa

A new humanitarian crisis is rapidly taking shape in the Horn of Africa where eight days of heavy fighting in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, has forced about 350,000 people to flee.


Artillery fire has devastated large areas of the city, forcing about one third of its population to leave. Yesterday Mogadishu's main hospital was shelled.


The plains around Mogadishu are filled with refugees enduring desperate conditions with little food or shelter. The fighting began when Somalia's internationally recognised government, supported by Ethiopian troops, launched an offensive against insurgents.


President Abdullahi Yusuf's regime was installed in Mogadishu after an Ethiopian invasion dislodged Somalia's Islamic extremists from the capital in December. Soon afterwards, insurgents began bombings and hit-and-run attacks.


Some were Islamists loyal to the ousted regime. But Mr Yusuf comes from the ***** clan, the traditional rivals of the ****** group, which probably comprises the majority of Mogadishu's population. Clan rivalry of a kind that has torn Somalia for generations probably accounts for most the fighting. Mr Yusuf and his Ethiopian allies have tried to wipe out the insurgency by attacking the ****** areas of the capital with tanks and heavy artillery.


More than 320 people are thought have been killed in the past week. An earlier upsurge in fighting in March killed about 1,000 people.


Mogadishu residents and aid agencies say the shelling has been indiscriminate. "They are bombing anything that moves," said an aid worker with a British charity. Bodies are being left to rot in the streets.



Residents fleeing from the Somali capital of Mogadishu

"Everyone we are talking to says this is the worst situation they have seen in 16 years since the last government fell," said Catherine Weibel, from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.


The southern town of Afgooye is packed with 40,000 desperate arrivals from the capital. Large numbers of children have become separated from their families as they fled.


Ethiopian and government forces have been accused of disrupting the flow of humanitarian supplies.


Ethiopia wants to pull its troops out of Somalia. But without military support, Mr Yusuf's regime would probably collapse, raising the possibility of Islamic extremists returning to power.

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This was Tigrey's plan all along so the rest of the country will capitulate without putting up a fight. Lets hope they don't succeed 'cause if they do Somalia will be gone to Ethiopia.

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^^I think the Tigre and their tools have caused irreversible damage to the city, structurally or otherwise. The suffering of its residents is quite substantial. I don’t even know how that community can recover from this utter destruction that befell upon them. Peace and stability will remain afar, and will forever elude us as long such tools operate in Xamar. It’s unthinkable what they did to these communities. News reports the tfg have even blocked aid shipments on a mere procedural grounds tells you how genocidal these folks are.


But Ethiopia will not benefit from this. I think it planted the seeds of nationalism in Somalia and the legacy of Mogadishu war will haunt it for years to come. I may even change the geopolitical structure of the horn after current American admin expires. I mean this will have a lasting impact on the affairs of not Somalis but also on the region as a whole.

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The Israeli aim during the Lebanon war was to "depopulate" the South of the country. The logic behind this was to stop support for the resistance and put pressure on the resistance itself, by attempting to make it feel responsible for the carnage. Of course Hassan Nasrallah said that he wouldn't have carried out the hostage raid if he had anticipated the consquences. But we also know that the invasion of Lebanon was planned prior to the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers. The Lebanon plan was also similar to that used in Muqdisho. That is, as Socod Badane said send out a message to the "insurgency" and perhaps other Somalis that they(Tigray) are willing to wipe whole towns if needed be.


The Somali resistance in Muqdisho has done remarkebly well in holding out for many days against a barrage of missiles and other heavy weaponry.However, one can't sustain these types of wars against conventional armies. They are not Hezbollah and they don't have the same weaponry as Hamas. Thus, they need a change of tactic. Fully blown wars will have a disasrous impact on the civilian population. Moreover, the supply lines and many of the weapons from the resistance could be destroyed.

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