15 April 2007

Somalia: Government Accused of Shelling Residential Areas

Mogadishu — Elders from Hawiye clan in the Somali capital Mogadishu accused the Somali transitional government (TFG) of continuing the war in the capital and forcing the remaining civilian population to flee.

Ahmed Dirie, the spokesperson for Mogadishu's major clan, Hawiye, said forcing the people to flee was unbearable. "The fighting still waged by the government is compelling a large number of people to flee Mogadishu and clearly the government is responsible for all these," he told Shabelle on Sunday.

Early Sunday morning, gunshots and artillery explosions could be heard in northern part of the capital where heavy skirmishes between government troops and Somali fighters have been taking place in the past days.

Dirie said Hawiye militias halted fighting, adding they were defending themselves. "They are not intending to launch any attacks on the government troops, but they have the right to defend themselves if they are attacked," he said.

He urged the Somali government to stop firing missiles at the residential areas in Mogadishu where most buildings have been ruined to the ground by the Ethiopian tanks during the four days of heavy gun battles between the Ethiopian forces based in Mogadishu and the capital's main clan militias, Hawiye, backed by the Somali insurgents.

"It is never possible to gain the confidence the population while killing and intimidating them. The government should bring the killing of innocent civilians to a halt," he said.

He also asked the international community to look into the exacerbating situation in the capital Mogadishu. The largest number of children was beset by watery diarrhea since the fighting which killed more than 1,000 Somali civilians, according to local statistics, forced thousands of people to flee the bullet-stricken city.

Somalia has had no affective central authority since 1991 when tribal warlords toppled former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre.

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