So­mali Civil­ians Hit Hard In Fight­ing in Mo­gadishu

The Washington Post Sunday - - World News - By Salad Duhul

MO­GADISHU, So­ma­lia, March 31 — Ar­tillery fire and mor­tar shells rained down on So­ma­lia’s cap­i­tal Satur­day, killing and wound­ing un­told num­bers of civil­ians as So­mali gov­ern­ment forces and Ethiopian troops tried to wipe out Is­lamic in­sur­gents.

The of­fen­sive, which started Thurs­day, has sparked the heav­i­est fight­ing in Mo­gadishu since the early 1990s. On Fri­day, in­sur­gents shot down an Ethiopian he­li­copter gun­ship and mor­tar shells slammed into a hospi­tal, leav­ing corpses piled in the streets and hun­dreds of peo­ple wounded.

“The vic­tims are the civil­ians. Only civil­ians are dy­ing and get­ting wounded in this fight­ing,” said Khadijo Farah Warsame, 45, a mother of seven who lives in Mo­gadishu.

The In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross said dozens of peo­ple have been killed since Thurs­day and more than 220 wounded, most of them civil­ians. But the fight­ing is so se­vere and wide­spread that bod­ies were not be­ing picked up or even tal­lied. Hos­pi­tals are over­whelmed, with pa­tients sleep­ing on floors.

“All the com­mer­cial ar­eas have closed, all the mar­kets, all the stores, and now the peo­ple are look­ing for food. Where can we buy food?” said Farah Has­san, a 50-yearold res­i­dent.

Ethiopia says its troops have killed more than 200 in­sur­gents since the as­sault started.

The in­sur­gents are linked to an Is­lamic move­ment that was driven from power in De­cem­ber by So­mali and Ethiopian sol­diers. The United States has ac­cused the move­ment of hav­ing ties to al-Qaeda, an al­le­ga­tion the group de­nies.

The in­sur­gents have long re­jected any sec­u­lar gov­ern­ment and have vowed to fight un­til So­ma­lia be­comes an Is­lamic emi­rate. Clan el­ders have tried to ne­go­ti­ate sev­eral cease-fires but can­not con­trol the young in­sur­gents.

The U.N. refugee agency said 58,000 peo­ple have fled vi­o­lence in Mo­gadishu since the be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary.

Waves of peo­ple have crossed So­ma­lia’s west­ern border into Kenya, rais­ing con­cerns that Is­lamic rad­i­cals could be try­ing to hide there. On Fri­day, a se­nior Kenyan po­lice of­fi­cial said six of­fi­cers in Garissa, near the border, were ar­rested and ac­cused of aid­ing “pos­si­ble ter­ror­ists” from So­ma­lia or Ethiopia.

Forty-five So­ma­lis have been de­tained since Fri­day, po­lice said.

So­ma­lia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when war­lords over­threw dic­ta­tor Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one an­other.

A na­tional gov­ern­ment was es­tab­lished in 2004 but has failed to as­sert con­trol. Since the Is­lamic move­ment was top­pled in De­cem­ber, in­sur­gents with links to the group have staged at­tacks nearly ev­ery day.

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