Somalis Protest US-Backed Warlords

June 5th, 2006 - by admin

Mohamed Ali Bile / Reuters & Agence France Press – 2006-06-05 00:02:32

Thousands Demonstrate against US in Somalia
Mohamed Ali Bile / Reuters

MOGADISHU (June 2, 2006) — Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Mogadishu on Friday angrily condemning the United States for supporting warlords involved in clashes with Islamic militias that claimed 16 more lives overnight.

“America is responsible for the death of our children and the elderly,” Sheikh Nur Barud, a respected cleric in Mogadishu, told the crowd chanting anti-American slogans.

“We are ready to defend our religion from the big American evil,” read a banner held high by Mogadishu resident Ureji Yusuf at the rally protected by Islamic militia armed with machine guns, anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Tens of thousands of people surged through Tarbuunka square in the Somali capital, voicing support for Islamic courts whose fighters have been engaged in vicious clashes with a coalition of warlords many say are funded by the United States.

Some 350 people have been killed in three bouts of heavy fighting since the start of the year in the fighting that had focused on the capital but has now moved beyond Mogadishu.

Fresh gun battles overnight in a remote village 15 km (9 miles) north of Mogadishu killed 16 people, witnesses said.

“At least 16 have died from both sides and several others were wounded,” Ibrahim Moallim, a member of a so-called anti-terrorism warlord coalition, told Reuters. “I saw one of our dead militia.”

Sources said the fighting had subsided by noon on Friday. But residents said three people were killed in a blast after a motorcycle passed a road in Bondere district of north Mogadishu.

“It’s not clear whether it was a bomb or a mine,” said Abdi Osman, a resident who spoke to family members in Bondere.

“Three people were killed instantly, among them a woman and children. Body parts were scattered all over the place.”

Although also fueled by commercial and political motives, such fights in and around Mogadishu are seen by many Somalis as a proxy war between Islamists and the United States.

Somali officials say the United States is funding the warlord coalition in return for attacks on Islamists it thinks are allied with or sheltering al Qaeda suspects.

Washington has not commented except to say it welcomes support in its “war on terror.”

The US government has long viewed Somalia, without a central government since the 1991 ouster of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre as a haven for terrorists.

© Copyright 2006 Reuters.

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US-backed Somali Militia Hits Back at Islamists
Ali Musa Abdi / Agence France Presse

MOGADISHU (June 3, 2006) — At least 16 people were killed and dozens wounded on Friday as fighters with a US-backed warlord alliance battled gunmen outside the lawless Somali capital, witnesses said. As elders pressed for a truce in Mogadishu, alliance members attacked a group believed to have defected to the Islamists in Balad, about 30 kilometers north of the city, where clashes erupted on Thursday, they said.

Residents said the fighting involved gunmen loyal to warlord Moussa Sudi Yalahow, a leading member of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) and those of a former ally-turned-rival, Moallim Ashi.

“At least 16 have died from both sides and several others were wounded,” Ibrahim Moallim (no known relation), a member of ARPCT, told Reuters. The new fatalities brought to at least 89 the death toll from the latest round of fighting between the two sides that began last week and has seen the Islamists make steady gains in territory.

Gunmen loyal to Mogadishu’s 11 Islamic courts have moved into Balad over the past several days to cut off the alliance’s key supply route to the town of Jowhar, about 90 kilometers north of the capital.

Mogadishu proper was tense but relatively calm on Friday, although the two sides were reinforcing positions even as elders scurried to secure an elusive cease-fire.

“We are contacting both sides involved in the conflict and they say they want peace, but to the contrary, the commanders are preparing themselves for war,” said mediator Ali Hassan.