Heavy shelling in Somalia

Heavy shelling in Somalia

MOGADISHU – Insurgents fired more than two dozen mortar shells at government targets in the Somali capital overnight, including the president’s residence, in an apparent attempt to disrupt reconciliation talks planned for the weekend.

At least five people were killed, but the president’s home was not hit – although a shell landed in his garden, witnesses said yesterday. Hours later, President Abdullahi Yusuf held a news conference at his residence saying the assailants ‘will not frighten us’.”We will hold the reconciliation conference even if they target us with an atomic bomb,” said Yusuf, who appeared calm and smiled profusely.Reporters were not allowed to see the damaged part of his compound, where five mortar shells were aimed on Wednesday night.Mohamed Mohamud Burale, who works inside the hilltop palace, said only one of the five shells fired at the compound hit it – landing in the empty garden.Among the other targets were police stations and the venue of the reconciliation conference, officials and witnesses said.A dozen heavily armed gunmen also battled government troops for about 15 minutes in southern Mogadishu, which has been hit by frequent explosions in recent days, said Qasim Awdini, who watched the fighting from the rooftop of his house.Mogadishu has seen little peace since government troops backed by Ethiopian forces drove an Islamic movement out of the city in December.Roadside bombs, attacks on government installations, assassination attempts and gunbattles have become common, and civilians have been caught in the crossfire.Two brothers ‘who were sleeping in the same room at the time’ died when a mortar shell slammed into their home, said Abdullhi Amir Awkuku, who lives near the presidential palace.Separate grenade attacks around the capital killed an elderly man and two other people and wounded seven others, including a policeman, witnesses said.Government spokesman Abdi Haji Gobdon declined to comment on the attacks.But Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed Dheere accused city traders of orchestrating them.”About 24 mortars were fired overnight at government positions,” said Dheere.”All were coming from Bakara market, so it is the traders who are behind the attack.”On Sunday, a much-delayed reconciliation conference is to be held in the capital, which government troops backed by Ethiopians are struggling to pacify.Dheere said the aim of the attackers was to disrupt the conference, which is envisioned as a chance for elders to deal with clan grievances.Nampa-APHours later, President Abdullahi Yusuf held a news conference at his residence saying the assailants ‘will not frighten us’.”We will hold the reconciliation conference even if they target us with an atomic bomb,” said Yusuf, who appeared calm and smiled profusely.Reporters were not allowed to see the damaged part of his compound, where five mortar shells were aimed on Wednesday night.Mohamed Mohamud Burale, who works inside the hilltop palace, said only one of the five shells fired at the compound hit it – landing in the empty garden.Among the other targets were police stations and the venue of the reconciliation conference, officials and witnesses said.A dozen heavily armed gunmen also battled government troops for about 15 minutes in southern Mogadishu, which has been hit by frequent explosions in recent days, said Qasim Awdini, who watched the fighting from the rooftop of his house.Mogadishu has seen little peace since government troops backed by Ethiopian forces drove an Islamic movement out of the city in December.Roadside bombs, attacks on government installations, assassination attempts and gunbattles have become common, and civilians have been caught in the crossfire.Two brothers ‘who were sleeping in the same room at the time’ died when a mortar shell slammed into their home, said Abdullhi Amir Awkuku, who lives near the presidential palace.Separate grenade attacks around the capital killed an elderly man and two other people and wounded seven others, including a policeman, witnesses said.Government spokesman Abdi Haji Gobdon declined to comment on the attacks.But Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed Dheere accused city traders of orchestrating them.”About 24 mortars were fired overnight at government positions,” said Dheere.”All were coming from Bakara market, so it is the traders who are behind the attack.”On Sunday, a much-delayed reconciliation conference is to be held in the capital, which government troops backed by Ethiopians are struggling to pacify.Dheere said the aim of the attackers was to disrupt the conference, which is envisioned as a chance for elders to deal with clan grievances.Nampa-AP

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