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19 Sep 2008 15:26
Mortar shells were fired on Mogadishu airport in Somalia on Friday, minutes after a military aircraft landed there in defiance of a three-day-old insurgent “ban” on using the facility, witnesses said.
Several residents in the airport area said the shelling started about five minutes after a military plane apparently transporting goods for African Union peacekeepers landed.
AU forces responded by firing their own mortar shells, witnesses said.
An Agence France-Presse correspondent in the area said he had heard at least eight mortar explosions but could not immediately establish if there were any casualties.
Somalia’s al-Shebab movement earlier this week warned that all flights should cease as of September 16, arguing that the airport was an instrument of Ethiopia’s military occupation of Somalia.
Commercial activity at the airport has since stopped, despite government assurances that the radical Islamist militia did not have the means to impose a blockade on the airport.
The airport is used for both commercial and military flights but is also the main base for the Ugandan contingent of the AU peacekeepers, who were reinforced by Burundians earlier this year.
With the war-torn Somalia’s roads dotted with rogue checkpoints and freelance gunmen and its waters infested with pirates, traders have warned the airport’s closure would only further stifle an already agonised nation.—Sapa-AFP
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