Mortar barrage triggers Mogadishu clashes

Insurgents fired a barrage of mortars into an Ethiopian army camp in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Friday, triggering heavy fighting, residents said.

The clashes shattered a fortnight lull in the city after weeks of heavy fighting that had claimed dozens of lives, mainly of civilians, and displaced at least 200 000 people.

“About 10 mortar shells have landed in and around the pasta factory where the Ethiopian forces are based,” said Hassan Abdullahi, a resident of northern Mogadishu Huriwa neighbourhood. “This was followed by heavy gunfire between the rival sides.”

Another resident, Mohamed Haji, described the barrage as the heaviest mortar attack he had witnessed since the last round of heavy fighting almost a week ago.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

About 600 000 people have fled Mogadishu since February, bringing the total number of people displaced inside the country to one million, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

An estimated 200 000 people are living rough in squalid camps along the road to Afgooye, 30km west of Mogadishu—a 50% increase over the past two weeks, the UNHCR said.

Aid workers were delivering supplies in Afgooye, but complained that fighting was preventing them from accessing civilians trapped in Mogadishu, where the government is battling a deadly insurgency.

Islamist militants who were ousted from much of the country early this years have been carrying out attacks against Ethiopian forces, African Union peacekeepers and government targets.

The transitional government, riven by in-fighting, has been unable to exert control across the nation and some regions have declared independence.

On Thursday, President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed named a veteran law-enforcement and aid official as his new prime minister and tasked him with restoring stability in one of the most anarchic cities in the world.

Bloody clan bickering and power struggles that intensified after the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre have undermined numerous bids to stabilise Somalia.—Sapa-AFP

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