MOGADISHU, (Reuters) – Five civilians were killed in the latest guerrilla-style strikes on Ethiopian military and Somali government positions in Mogadishu, witnesses said on Friday.
Resident Adey Malim Nur confirmed both his sons were killed in mortar attacks late on Thursday. Three others were previously known to have died from the attack near the presidential palace. “They died instantly,” Nur told Reuters. “My older son was standing outside the house when a mortar hit him in the stomach, my other son was inside the house. My wife and daughter were also wounded.”
The Somali government said those behind the attack were probably militants from an Islamist movement ousted from Mogadishu after a six-month rule of most of south Somalia.
Government forces backed by Ethiopia’s military routed the Islamists in a two-week campaign in December. “Investigations are under way,” Information Minister Al Ahmed Jama told Reuters. “It’s possible a few of the Islamist remnant trouble-makers were behind the attacks.”
In Thursday’s assault, mortar bombs and rockets struck parts of the sea port, near the Villa Somalia palace where President Abdullahi Yusuf stays, and hit homes nearby.
It was the latest in a string of assassinations and strikes — including on Ethiopian military convoys and bases, and a mortar attack on Villa Somalia — since the war at the New Year.
Most casualties have been civilians.
The violence has underlined the challenges facing Yusuf’s government in its efforts to establish central rule in Somalia for the first time since 1991 when the ouster of a dictator turned the Horn of Africa nation into a byword for anarchy.
The African Union (AU) is struggling to build a peacekeeping force for Somalia to fill a security vacuum after Ethiopian troops leave. But many African nations are nervous about sending soldiers to one of the world’s most dangerous countries.
Since their defeat, the Islamists have scattered to southern Somalia but vowed a long guerrilla war.
In Nairobi, the United Nations said the international community must assist the Somali government to restore order. “This is the right time to help the people in Somalia. The people, especially youth, are tired of war,” Eric Laroche, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told reporters. Laroche said the U.N. was planning to help Somalia restore local administration by training police, rebuilding health centres, re-establishing education programmes and resettling approximately 400,000 internally displaced people. He added that more than 3,000 metric tones of relief food meant for people in the Gedo region of Somalia were stuck in neighbouring Kenya, which closed its border due to the war.