Somalia: pitched battle in Mogadishu —as “official” regime moves in

Residents of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu report that hundreds of militants clashed with Ethiopian and Somali government forces, in fighting that left dozens dead in the northeastern quarter of the city March 20. Insurgents set fire to the bodies of killed soldiers, dragging the flaming corpses through the streets.

Captain Paddy Ankunda, leader of African Union forces in Somalia, is pleading for more troops to supplement his 1,600 Ugandans already deployed in the country. Few countries have promised peacekeepers, and many of those that have, such as Burundi, lack the required equipment for their soldiers.

A group called the Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations claimed in a statement posted on the website of the Islamic Courts Union that it had repulsed attacks from government and Ethiopian forces, and an unspecified number of soldiers had surrendered to them. The group said that more fighting in the coming days would be “decisive.” (AlJazeera , March 21)

Paradoxically, the escalation comes just as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has decided to move to Mogadishu from the town of Baidoa. The TFG parliament voted for the move March 12 and preparations began a day later.

“The prime minister [Ali Mohamed Ghedi] and his cabinet ministers have fully relocated to Mogadishu as of yesterday March 20,” the Somali ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Nur told a news conference. Nur said the parliament would follow Ghedi to Mogadishu, after a Somali reconciliation conference, which is planned to start on April 16. (Press TV , Iran, March 21)

See our last post on Somalia and the Horn of Africa.