Somalia pleads for help as fighting rages
MORTARS, machine-guns and rockets pounded Mogadishu yesterday in a seventh day of increasingly fierce militia fighting that has killed more than 100 people.
As the street battles dragged on in rundown areas of the Somali capital, the interim government - powerless to stop the shooting and unable to enter Mogadishu - called for foreign intervention to end the worst fighting there in years.
At least five civilians were killed overnight and into yesterday as gunmen from a powerful alliance of warlords engaged in close-range firefights and artillery duels with militiamen backed by the city's influential Islamic courts.
"Both sides are still firing mortars at each other. Fighting went on through the night," said Islamic militia leader Siyad Mohamed
Analysts view the fighting in the failed Horn of Africa state as a proxy battle between al-Qaeda and Washington, which is widely believed to be funding the warlords.
The warring parties were massing militiamen and another warlord, Mohamed Dheere, was said to be on his way to Mogadishu from his stronghold in Jowhar to join the battle. "The coalition is planning to attack the Islamic court militia from other fronts," warlord Ali Nur said.
By yesterday, the battle was in the northern residential area of Karan, having spread beyond the shanty towns of Siisii and Yaqshid, and some aid workers feared more civilian casualties.
"Anxiety is high in Mogadishu," said one resident, Abdifatah Abdikadir. "It looks like the worst is yet to come because there is a very high chance of fighting engulfing the whole city."
Most of the dead and many among the hundreds who were wounded were non-combatants. Residents continued to flee the battle zones.
The interim government, now based in the southern city of Baidoa because it is unable to exert much control in the country of 10 million, appealed for humanitarian aid for the victims. "We... call upon and invite the international community to intervene and get involved in the crucial situation in Mogadishu by... cooperating fully with the Somali transitional federal government to rescue the innocent suffering people," said information minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir.
The perception of a foreign hand in Mogadishu - namely the United States - has stoked the fighting between the Islamic militias and the warlord coalition, which dubbed itself the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism.
Interim President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Islamic leaders have accused Washington of financing the warlords.
The top US diplomat in Africa last week said she did not know if anti-terrorism warlords battling for control of Mogadishu received US backing. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, said: "Our policy is very clear. We will work with those elements that will help us to root out al-Qaeda and to prevent Somalia becoming a safe haven for terrorists, and we are doing it in the interests of protecting America."
Warlord Omar Finnish said Islamist militias were harbouring terrorists sheltering in Somalia's vacuum of anarchy. "We decided to remove these elements who are on the run. We did not form this alliance in order for Somalis to kill each other," Finnish said.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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