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Africa
Somalis ferried back to capital
Despite government claims of victory, residents feel fighters could regroup.
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2007 16:36 GMT
Many Somalis were returning home in minibuses with their pots and pans [REUTERS]

Scores of Somalis have been brought back to Mogadishu, three days after the interim government claimed significant gains against fighters loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts.
Many residents said they would avoid northern Mogadishu, the scene of some of the worst fighting in 16 years between Ethiopian troops backing the weak interim government forces and a mixture of Islamic Courts fighters and disgruntled clansmen.

Maryam Ali, a resident of the Towfiq neighbourhood, said: "We can't go back to where the troops are. There is some unexploded ordnance in my neighbourhood."

 

One cafe owner said he planned to reopen his business in a couple of days, but would wait before sending for his family.

 

Although the machine guns, tanks and rocket-propelled grenades fell silent on Friday, many residents say they feared that the fighters are regrouping.

 

The battle for control of Mogadishu has killed at least 1,300 people in recent weeks and turned parts of the coastal city into a ghost town.

 

The UN says a humanitarian catastrophe is looming with 365,000 people leaving the city over the past three months - most of them living under trees in surrounding towns or out in the open.

  

Reconciliation

 

In an apparent gesture of reconciliation, Abdullahi Yusuf, the Somali president  and Ali Mohamed Gedi, the interim prime minister, on Sunday held meetings with their main political opponents - Mogadishu's dominant Hawiye clan.

 

"We met the president and the prime minister yesterday and we agreed principally to solve through negotiations the disagreements that we have between us"

Ugaz Abdi Dahir,
Hawiye elder
The has opposed a government they see as favouring Yusuf's rival Darod clan.

 

"We met the president and the prime minister yesterday and we agreed principally to solve through negotiations the disagreements that we have between us," Ugaz Abdi Dahir, a Hawiye elder, told Reuters.

 

"We agreed to have another meeting to address deeply the issues we both have."

 

He gave no date.

 

The interim government, established in 2004, is determined to restore central rule to the Horn of Africa country for the first time since local commanders toppled Mohamed Siad Barre, the former president, in 1991.

 

Since announcing victory, the government has ordered civilians in the city to disarm, while deploying joint Somali-Ethiopian troops to search opposition strongholds.

 

The government has also appointed formerly powerful militia leaders as head of the national police and the mayor of Mogadishu to oversee law and order in the city, where the last security crackdown ignited a new round of bloodshed and violence.

 

Uganda cautions

 

Meanwhile, the top Ugandan army commander has cautioned against declaring victory against insurgents groups, calling on Somali leaders to continue reconciliation efforts.

 

The interim government says it has
routed its opposition[AFP]
 

Addressing journalists in Mogadishu, Lieutenant-General Edward Katumba Wamala, commander of Uganda's land forces, also accused world powers of deserting Somalia at a time when it is "facing a looming humanitarian catastrophe".

 

Wamala said the armed groups could be a force of instability in Somalia.

 

"I would suggest building their confidence so that they can be protected and rehabilitated," he said, urging Somalia's government to include them if they are ready to participate in a reconciliation conference scheduled for June 24.

 

Wamala said he was discussing peacekeeper patrols with the government and also planned talks with Ethiopian commanders.

 

"Our troops are committed to share the burden of restoring law and order in the capital with their partners soon."

Source:
Agencies
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