Fri, Mar 30, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Heavy fighting in Mogadishu as the ceasefire crumbles

FAILED TRUCE Last week's deal followed some of the deadliest fighting since Ethiopian troops drove insurgent Islamists out of Somalia


Heavy fighting broke out in Mogadishu yesterday between Ethiopian troops and insurgents, killing at least 10 civilians and smashing a shaky six-day old ceasefire.

Ethiopian tanks were met with insurgent fire as they rolled into southern neighborhoods, crushing hopes that a truce with the Hawiye clan, which has largely controlled the Somali capital since 1991, could be maintained.

There has been sporadic fighting since the deal between the Ethiopians, backing Somali government forces, and Hawiye elders a week ago, but yesterday's clashes returned the capital to scenes of war.

At least 10 civilians were killed in crossfire in southern neighborhoods of Mogadishu, witnesses said.

A correspondent saw two dead civilians in the fighting in the Ali Kamin neighborhood, and witnesses said three others had died.

"I have seen two people killed by stray bullets and I have also seen three others wounded. I can see the Ethiopian tanks taking positions in our neighborhood, in front of my house," local resident Mohamed Ali Hassan said.

"I have seen a neighbor killed by stray bullets," resident Hawo Moalil said. "My younger daughter was wounded by a stray bullet."

Residents of the southern Gupta neighborhood reported five others killed, after artillery hit a garage.

"We don't know where the fire was coming from, maybe it was a mortar or an artillery shell. Five people were killed, three of them in the garage and two others were outside," said Ahmed Hassan Madobe.

He said that continued fighting prevented residents from collecting the bodies, and that six people had been wounded.

"The place was full of smoke after a big bang. Three people were killed inside the garage and two were in a compound next to the garage," said another resident, Asha Abdullahi.

She said nine people had been wounded and three were in a critical condition.

Ethiopian tanks rolled into southern neighborhoods as fighting continued early yesterday, after deploying nearby late on Wednesday.

Last Friday's ceasefire deal came after some of the deadliest fighting since the government and its Ethiopian allies drove powerful Islamists from southern and central Somalia three months ago.

The powerful Hawiye clan on Monday released 18 government forces captured during bloody clashes in which 24 people died last week.

Meanwhile, the government has announced a crackdown on suspected Islamist insurgent fighters in a bid to bring calm to the capital ahead of a national reconciliation conference set to start in the middle of next month.

A small force of some 1,500 Ugandan African Union troops is currently deploying at strategic points around Mogadishu.

Dozens of people have died and thousands have fled Mogadishu since the start of the year.

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