Mon, Feb 12, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Mortar attacks in Somalia kill five, wound 10


Mortar attacks in two areas of the Somali capital killed five people and injured 10 on Saturday, witnesses said, a day after a previously unknown pro-Islamist group warned it would step up violence.

In a southern residential area of Mogadishu, unknown gunmen fired mortars at houses and a homeless shelter, with explosions killing five people, including two girls, wit-nesses said.

Mogadishu has seen increasing violence over the past month, after government troops backed by Ethiopian forces ousted the Islamic movement that controlled the capital and much of southern Somalia.

The Islamic movement, which still has support in Mogadishu, vowed to wage an Iraq-style insurgency, though it was immediately unclear why the residential area was targeted.

"A mortar hit our house, killing my 14-year-old daughter who had returned from school," said Sadiya Dahir Nur, a mother of six.

She said her sister and two cousins were also wounded.

A nearby house was also hit, killing three people and wounding four, said Olad Yusuf Ahmed, a relative of the victims.

At the homeless camp, a mortar blast killed a 13-year-old girl and wounded two people, said Shamsa Hadi Abdi Wali, a nurse at the nearby Banadir Hospital who had gone to the camp to offer help after the attack.

Another three mortars were aimed at Mogadishu's airport, but no casualties or damages were reported there, manager Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed said.

Earlier Saturday, gunmen fired a mortar at a hotel in Mogadishu, where the transitional government was holding a weeklong meeting to discuss reconciliation in the northern capital.

Another hotel, the Global Hotel, was hit by a rocket late on Friday, just hours after a masked man at a pro-Islamist rally warned that Ethiopian soldiers would be attacked in their hotels.

The man, who gave his name only as Abdirisaq, claimed he was speaking on behalf of a group called the Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations, which he said was responsible for attacks on Somali government buildings and Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu.

The same group claimed responsibility for the attack at the Global Hotel, with a message on Saturday on the official Web site of Somalia's Council of Islamic Courts saying it had targeted Ethiopian generals staying there.

No one was injured in the attack on the Global Hotel, where a wedding ceremony had been taking place, receptionist Farhiya Sahal said.

"One rocket hit the top of the hotel's main gate, and the other missed and went into the ocean," Sahal said.

Another witness, Mohammed Aden Sheikh, described "about 12 well-armed gunmen got off a pickup truck in front of my house, and soon two of them fired two rockets toward the hotel," only 100m away.

Somalia's two-year-old transitional government, formed with UN help, managed only in December to establish itself in the capital, though it is still struggling to assert authority and to heal clan rifts.

Before ousting the Islamic movement from Mogadishu, and prompting movement supporters to flee over the border to neighboring Kenya, the government was confined to Baidoa.

Kenya on Saturday handed over to Somali authorities about 20 people suspected of having fought with or been linked to Somalia's Islamic movement, a British diplomat and a Kenyan police officer said, both speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

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