51 die in Somalia clashes


Summary

Rotting corpses lay on the streets of the Somali capital as the toll from the five days of fighting climbed to 219.

Rival forces exchanged artillery and machinegun fire, demolishing buildings in northern and southern Mogadishu.

Hundreds of terrified civilians were streaming out of the capital, adding to scores of thousands who have been forced from their homes in recent weeks amid some of the worst violence in the battle-scarred port city for 15 years.

The latest deaths brought the death toll from the past five days to 219, Sudan Ali Ahmed, head of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation that tracks casualty figures, told AFP. Sixty-two injured civilians were taken to hospital.

"As of today, we gave collected the bodies of 42 civilians and nine of the opposition (insurgents)," Ahmed told AFP.

Witnesses said the toll could be much higher as wounded and dead people lay in areas too dangerous to reach, while hospitals were being overwhelmed with casualties.

"Bodies are lying rotting in areas we cannot access. We are appealing to both sides to stop the fighting. This is unacceptable, the civilians are bearing the brunt," said Ahmed.

Residents said both sides were firing without regard for the consequences to civilians.

"We can see Ethiopian tanks firing … towards civilian areas. They are firing indiscriminately and the mortars are landing everywhere," said Abdulkarim Ali, a resident of southern Mogadishu's Gupta area.

"The fighting is going on heavily in this area. Both sides are using machineguns and anti-aircraft guns and many people are trapped in their houses," said Mukhtar Mohamed, a resident of Fagah in northern Mogadishu.

"May Allah save us because He is the only one who knows when this fighting will end," he said, adding that casualties were "apparently increasing in this neighbourhood and people are fleeing".

Four days of fighting earlier this month claimed at least 1,000 lives in clashes that were described as the worst bloodletting since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The UN says at least 321,000 people have fled Mogadishu since February. Many are camped under trees and makeshift hovels in the city's outskirts, without supplies and where disease outbreaks have been reported.

Elders from Mogadishu's dominant Hawiye clan said the Ethiopians had approached them seeking a fresh truce, after hopes for a ceasefire were shattered last week due to the absence from insurgent leaders from the talks.

"The Ethiopian military officers have contacted the Hawiye clan elders and asked for ways to agree on a ceasefire… It is possible that there might be negotiations again," Hawiye spokesman Ahmed Diriye told AFP.

But Ethiopian-backed Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi earlier vowed to crush the insurgents, some of whom are allegedly linked to the Al-Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden.

"Until the terrorists are wiped out of Somalia, the fighting will go on," he told Mogadishu-based Shabelle radio.

"I want to tell the Somali people and the world that there is no so-called fighting between the Hawiye clan and the government, the battle is clearly between terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda and the government" supported by Ethiopian forces.

Ethiopian troops helped Somalia's UN-backed transitional government to oust Islamists from Mogadishu in January. But since then fighting has steadily grown worse as insurgents and clan warlords have waged a guerrilla war.

Some 1,500 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda, deployed in the city since early March, have been unable to stem the violence. The Ugandans are an advance contingent of about 8,000 peacekeepers who the AU plans to deploy in Somalia.

But in a blow to African unity in the face of Somalia's crisis, Ethiopia's arch rival, Eritrea, announced its withdrawal from the east African peacemaking bloc known as the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

The Eritrean foreign ministry said the move was due to the group's adoption of "repeated and irresponsible resolutions that undermine regional peace and security."


Rotting corpses lay on the streets of the Somali capital as the toll from the five days of fighting climbed to 219.

Rival forces exchanged artillery and machinegun fire, demolishing buildings in northern and southern Mogadishu.

Hundreds of terrified civilians were streaming out of the capital, adding to scores of thousands who have been forced from their homes in recent weeks amid some of the worst violence in the battle-scarred port city for 15 years.

The latest deaths brought the death toll from the past five days to 219, Sudan Ali Ahmed, head of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation that tracks casualty figures, told AFP. Sixty-two injured civilians were taken to hospital.

"As of today, we gave collected the bodies of 42 civilians and nine of the opposition (insurgents)," Ahmed told AFP.

Witnesses said the toll could be much higher as wounded and dead people lay in areas too dangerous to reach, while hospitals were being overwhelmed with casualties.

"Bodies are lying rotting in areas we cannot access. We are appealing to both sides to stop the fighting. This is unacceptable, the civilians are bearing the brunt," said Ahmed.

Residents said both sides were firing without regard for the consequences to civilians.

"We can see Ethiopian tanks firing … towards civilian areas. They are firing indiscriminately and the mortars are landing everywhere," said Abdulkarim Ali, a resident of southern Mogadishu's Gupta area.

"The fighting is going on heavily in this area. Both sides are using machineguns and anti-aircraft guns and many people are trapped in their houses," said Mukhtar Mohamed, a resident of Fagah in northern Mogadishu.

"May Allah save us because He is the only one who knows when this fighting will end," he said, adding that casualties were "apparently increasing in this neighbourhood and people are fleeing".

Four days of fighting earlier this month claimed at least 1,000 lives in clashes that were described as the worst bloodletting since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The UN says at least 321,000 people have fled Mogadishu since February. Many are camped under trees and makeshift hovels in the city's outskirts, without supplies and where disease outbreaks have been reported.

Elders from Mogadishu's dominant Hawiye clan said the Ethiopians had approached them seeking a fresh truce, after hopes for a ceasefire were shattered last week due to the absence from insurgent leaders from the talks.

"The Ethiopian military officers have contacted the Hawiye clan elders and asked for ways to agree on a ceasefire… It is possible that there might be negotiations again," Hawiye spokesman Ahmed Diriye told AFP.

But Ethiopian-backed Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi earlier vowed to crush the insurgents, some of whom are allegedly linked to the Al-Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden.

"Until the terrorists are wiped out of Somalia, the fighting will go on," he told Mogadishu-based Shabelle radio.

"I want to tell the Somali people and the world that there is no so-called fighting between the Hawiye clan and the government, the battle is clearly between terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda and the government" supported by Ethiopian forces.

Ethiopian troops helped Somalia's UN-backed transitional government to oust Islamists from Mogadishu in January. But since then fighting has steadily grown worse as insurgents and clan warlords have waged a guerrilla war.

Some 1,500 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda, deployed in the city since early March, have been unable to stem the violence. The Ugandans are an advance contingent of about 8,000 peacekeepers who the AU plans to deploy in Somalia.

But in a blow to African unity in the face of Somalia's crisis, Ethiopia's arch rival, Eritrea, announced its withdrawal from the east African peacemaking bloc known as the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

The Eritrean foreign ministry said the move was due to the group's adoption of "repeated and irresponsible resolutions that undermine regional peace and security."