Thursday, March 22, 2007

Somalis drag soldiers' bodies through Mogadishu streets

The body of a Somali soldier killed in heavy fighting in Mogadishu is dragged through the city's streets. Photograph: Mustafa Abdi/AFP/Getty
Somali rebels dragged the bodies of two soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu today after a government assault on insurgent forces.
In scenes reminiscent of what happed after a US helicopter was shot down over the city in 1993, witnesses said they saw the bodies of a Somali soldier and an Ethiopian soldier being pulled along the ground and then set alight.
The 1993 incident, later chronicled in the film Black Hawk Down, led to the eventual withdrawal of UN troops from Somalia, which move plunged the country further into anarchy.

Today's incident casts further doubt on the ability of Somali government forces, backed by Ethiopia, to control the capital, which they seized in December from an Islamist group that ruled most of southern Somalia during the second half of 2006.

At least seven people were killed in fighting in Mogadishu today after Somali and Ethiopian troops, with tanks and armoured vehicles in support, entered an insurgent stronghold in the centre of the city before dawn and were met by hundreds of masked rebels.

A Somali official said the offensive would be extended to other parts of the capital and was intended to stop militants firing rockets at government buildings.

Ethiopia sent soldiers into Somalia in December to help defeat the Islamic movement and restore the authority of the internationally recognised transitional government.

Since then, insurgent forces have fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at government positions almost daily.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991. The present regime has so far failed to assert itself, and the African Union has deployed a small peacekeeping force to defend it.

An insurgent attack on Mogadishu's airport earlier this month appeared timed to coincide with the arrival Ugandan forces in the vanguard of the African Union mission.

According to Washington, the years of chaos in Somalia have allowed the country to become a haven for al-Qaida.

In January, US air strikes on the south of the country targeted three top al-Qaida members accused of terror attacks in east Africa but failed to kill any of them.

Staff and agencies

Guardian Unlimited

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