21 June 2009

Somalia: Violence Spirals Out of Control in South-Central Region

Mogadishu — At least 20 people were killed and 60 others wounded in renewed clashes that raged in parts of Mogadishu, especially in Kaaraan district where pro-government forces and Al Shabaab insurgents battled for control of a district that has been under the control of government forces since 2007.

A Somali lawmaker, MP Mohamed Hussein Addow, was among the dead victims in heavy battles where Hizbul Islam and Al Shabaab militia attacked government-held districts including Kaaraan, Shibis, Abdiaziz and Wardhigley, where the Villa Somalia presidential palace is located.

MP Addow, who belongs to President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's Abgal clan, reportedly took part of the battle after insurgents got too close to his residence.

His dead body and the bodies of two bodyguards lay on the ground for public view for hours, witnesses and neighbors reported.

Suicide bombing praised, aid group threatened

Al Shabaab hardliners who control the southern port of Kismayo have publicly supported Thursday's suicide bombing in the central town of Beletwein, where Security Minister Omar Hashi was among 25 dead victims.

Sheikh Hassan Yakub, spokesman for Al Shabaab group in Kismayo, told a press conference that he is "happy" to hear the Security Minister's death.

"We promise to kill anyone who commits treason," vowed Sheikh Yakub.

Separately, Sheikh Yakub told a Sunday press conference in Kismayo that aid agencies are "working for foreign interests" and demanded that aid workers leave territory under the control of Al Shabaab guerrillas.

"The aid groups support anyone who opposes Somali Islamists," said Sheikh Yakub, while referring to Islamist factions waging war on Somalia's U.N.-backed interim government.

'Promise to attack Nairobi'

Sheikh Yakub went on to threaten the Kenyan government, saying that Al Shabaab guerrillas will attack Nairobi if Kenyan troops along the border do not stop military maneuvers.

"We promise to attack Nairobi if the Kenyan government does not stop attempts to interfere in Somalia and to attack regions controlled by Mujahideen," he added.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said the Kenyan government "will not stand by and watch the situation in Somalia deteriorate," according to a Reuters article published on Friday.

The insurgency in south-central Somalia threatens to overthrow the weak interim government, as Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam hardliners vow to continue the war until the government collapses.

Upwards of 18,000 civilians have been killed in the insurgency, which sparked in early 2007. Nearly 3million people in Somalia are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to U.N. estimates.

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