Al Qaeda-linked Somali insurgents rained mortar rounds yesterday on a ceremony feting the first year of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s shaky rule after a night of fighting that at least killed nine.
As poetry was being read inside a newly renovated theatre in
’s presidential compound, Al Shabaab Islamist rebels and their allies pounded the area, drawing heavy retaliatory fire.There were surreal scenes of Sharif and his prime minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke watching a video celebrating their first year in office as the smell of gunpowder filled the room after a night of deadly clashes.Four people were wounded on the compound but Sharif was unshaken despite the sound of explosions, outgoing or incoming mortar rounds and artillery shells drowning the show, an AFP reporter at the scene said.A few metres away from the freshly whitewashed walls of the theatre a seriously wounded man was being evacuated in a carpet.One mortar round smashed into the nearby Ethiopian embassy and another struck at an Amisom checkpoint but it was not immediately clear whether anybody was killed in the shelling.Artillery exchanges and automatic weapons fire first broke out around 2am (2300 GMT on Thursday) between the African Union’s peacekeeping mission (Amisom) and Islamist insurgents and ran through the night.“Around seven civilians died in the clashes, including women and children. Most of them were killed by mortar shells and stray bullets,” Abdi Adan, an eyewitness, told AFP. Mogadishu
The fighting was concentrated around the strategic K4 junction halfway between the Somali capital’s airport and the port, on the edge of an area controlled by the African Union peacekeeping mission (Amisom).
The Shabaab in a statement said two of its fighters died in the overnight clashes.“Four civilians died in Wardhigley district and three others were killed in Holwadag and Bakara area. It was the worst fighting we have seen recently,” Mohamoud Ahmed, another local resident, said.“Kilometre Four” (K4) in southeastern
is where the airport road meets several other key thoroughfares and is a major flashpoint in the war-ravaged coastal city. Mogadishu
Civilians living in the densely-populated neighbourhoods clamped between Amisom-protected areas and the strongholds of the Shabaab Islamist insurgents are often caught in the crossfire.“We have collected around 22 injured from several locations inThe two insurgent movements in May last year launched a bruising military offensive aimed at toppling the government.
Mogadishu and several other people have died,” Ali Musa, head of ’s ambulance services, told AFP.“I don’t have the full figures but I know that three of the dead are a mother and her two children,” he said.The Shabaab issued a statement claiming responsibility for the shelling.“Our holy warriors launched a fierce offensive on several locations in Mogadishu where the apostate militias and their Christian backers were stationed,” the statement said.They were referring to government troops, whom they accuse of being puppets of the West, and to Amisom’s Ugandan and Burundian troops, whom they describe as crusaders bent on introducing Christianity to Muslim Somalia.On January 30 last year, Somali MPs gathered in Mogadishu Djibouti to elect a new president and Sharif was declared the winner the next day and hailed by many in his country and abroad as ’s best chance of peace in years.Officials had spent the week preparing for yesterday’s celebrations, which included dancing, singing and poetry reading.The ceremony was attended by most of the embattled transitional federal government (TFG) as well as clan leaders.Amisom’s Ugandan spokesman Ba-Hoku Barigye told AFP two men were arrested after being caught phoning in instructions to insurgents on where to fire their mortar rounds.Sharif, a moderate Islamist cleric, came to power a year ago pledging to bring Islamist rebels back into the fold, but the Shabaab and his former allies from the Hezb al-Islam group turned against him. Somalia