Sunday, October 28, 2007

Violence & Protests Rock Mogadishu

Right: Somali police patrol the streets of Mogadishu.

Violence for a second straight day and protests rock Mogadishu, Somalia.

MOGADISHU, Oct 28--Heavy clashes broke out in Mogadishu Sunday, prompting some residents to stage an angry protest against Ethiopian troops and other actors to flee the Somali capital.

Somali government forces in armored vehicles clashed with guerrillas in broad daylight for the second day running, witnesses said.

The fresh violence came a day after Ethiopian troops fanned out in the streets of Mogadishu following fighting near the stadium that left at least six civilians dead.

The latest bout of fighting in the Somali capital appeared to have prompted a fresh wave of displacement, as civilians could be seen across entire neighborhoods loading pickup trucks and donkey carts with household items.

Witnesses said that no one can endure what is happening in Mogadishu -- the non-stop violence which is taking hundreds of lives every week.

The Ethiopian army came to the rescue of Somalia's embattled transitional government last year to defeat the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), a group that briefly controlled large parts of the country. Since the group was ousted earlier this year, its remnants and allied tribal leaders have waged a guerilla-style war, carrying out hit- and- run attacks, mainly by night and in the capital, Mogadishu.

Residents are saying that daytime fighting is making the city even more dangerous for civilians than it was before. Mogadishu residents have been fleeing the city in several major waves in recent months, arriving in droves in neighboring towns already plagued by dire food shortages. While some were fleeing Mogadishu with their belongings, others staged a protest against the presence of Ethiopian troops in their country.
"Down with Ethiopia! Down with the Somali government!" the protestors chanted, even as fighting resumed nearby.

"We don't need them on our soil. Ethiopia must leave otherwise its presence will lead to more bloodshed," said one protestor, Abdi Adan Somane.

"This is an uprising against the Ethiopian colonialists and its stooges," said another demonstrator, who declined to give his name.

"We will continue day after day until they leave our country because we don't need them."
While the capital was engulfed in violence, the country's transitional government was also on the brink of disintegration. In the town of Baidoa, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) from Mogadishu, President Abdullahi Ahmed Yusuf was pushing parliament to oust Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi.

The two leaders are from the country's two main and rival tribes - the Hawiye and the Darod - and the president accuses his premier of failing to bring an end to the insurgency.

Saudi King Abdullah, a key broker in Somali politics, has invited top leaders in a bid to reconcile them and press on with rebuilding the country's institutions.

The Horn of Africa nation has lacked a functional government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre which set off a deadly power struggle that has defied at least a dozen peace initiatives.

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