Despite the reported recent withdrawal of perhaps thousands of Ethiopian troops, Mogadishu remains a battleground. Fighting has spiked in recent days as Al-Shabab insurgents step up their challenge to the corrupt Transitional Federal Government and, more alarmingly, to the Ugandan-led peacekeeping force that is the only thing keeping Mogadishu open to the outside world. The Associated Press reports:
Somalia’s warring sides pounded the capital with mortar rounds and gunfire Monday, killing 30 people … The fighting began after Islamic insurgents fired mortars at the capital’s main airport and the presidential palace, said Ali Mohamed Siyad, who chairs Bakara Market traders’ association. Soon after, government forces and their Ethiopian allies retaliated with mortars and gunfire.
Siyad, for the record, is the former warlord-chieftan of Bakara, but now has been reduced to near poverty along with many other Bakara Market vendors. The fighting since the Islamic Courts’ overthrow by the TFG two years ago has broken up the city’s old landscape, leveling Bakara and driving people out of some neighborhoods.
New markets have sprung up in the seaside neighborhoods controlled by the Ugandans (pictured) and the other African Union peacekeepers. The A.U.’s main task is to keep the airport, seaport and strategic roads open, essentially keeping the city on life support. For a while, the insurgents mostly left the A.U. troops alone. That has changed, my friend Mohamed Omar Hussein from Somali Weyn reports:
Heavy bombardment has overnight taken place in some parts of the Somali capital Mogadishu when most of the city dwellers were dormant. The target of the bombardment was the base of the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces who are in Mogadishu as part of peacekeeping mission in Somalia, and Adan Ade International Airport which itself is inactive a period of more than a week now. … The Ugandan armed forces on their side reacted with similar weapons which have landed in some parts of the capital and claimed the lives of several people.
No one’s safe. No one’s neutral. The fighting is intensifying. It’s quite clear now that Al Shabab has the upper hand in Mogadishu.
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