MOGADISHU, (Reuters) – A series of blasts hit the Somali capital Mogadishu on Friday, witnesses said, a day after Ugandan peacekeepers started arriving in the lawless Horn of Africa country.
Residents said they heard mortar bombs being fired in the direction of Mogadishu’s port. A reporter at the scene said three fell in central Mogadishu, hitting a restaurant, a house and a minibus. He said six people were wounded.
The assault happened a day after gunmen shot dead three people at the house of the director of Mogadishu’s port, the latest in a series of guerrilla strikes in the capital.
The daily attacks came as reminders of the tough task facing the African Union (AU) mission designed to help Somalia’s interim government pacify the anarchic country.
The insurgents targeting a joint force of government troops and their Ethiopian allies are suspected to be a mix of Islamist guerrillas and clan militia fighting for control of the capital.
Backed by Ethiopian soldiers, weapons and tanks, government troops ousted rival Islamist rulers from their strongholds in Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia in a two-week war.
Mogadishu, like the rest of Somalia, has been deprived of effective central government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991. A few years later a U.S.-U.N. peace mission ended in humiliation and a bloody withdrawal from Somalia.
The AU hopes it will do better.
A cargo plane dropped off 35 uniformed Ugandan officers in Somalia on Thursday, as part of a proposed AU force of 8,000 troops. Officials expect the rest of the 1,635-strong Ugandan contingent to land in Somalia probably next week.
Kampala has kept the exact date of deployment secret, mindful of the threat to its troops by insurgents who have vowed to attack any foreign peacekeepers or government allies.
Reaction to the newcomers was mixed in Somalia. “The Ugandan troops are different from the Ethiopians because they are coming in a legal way,” said Mohamed Nur Ali, a store owner in Baidoa where the interim government has its temporary base. “The Somalis have no quarrel with Uganda.”
But Mogadishu taxi driver Abdisalan Yahye was suspicious. “The Ethiopian troops didn’t do any good and I don’t think the Ugandans will be any different from them. Peace will only come from the Somalis and no outsider can bring it,” he said.