Whereabouts of Somali Leader Unknown, Rebels Announce New Gov’t
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ The whereabouts of longtime Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre, driven from office over the weekend as rebels closed in on his palace, remained unknown today.
A rebel statement said it is forming a new leadership to take over rule of the Horn of Africa nation, under guerrilla siege since Dec. 30. An estimated 50 people have been slain daily as rebels moved against troops loyal to Siad Barre, ruler of Somalia since 1969 and accused of rights abuses and corruption.
For the first night since the rebels began their offensive against Siad Barre, a spokesman of the humanitarian medical team Doctors Without Borders said his colleagues in Mogadishu reported no fighting overnight in that capital of 600,000 residents.
But a pilot transporting foreign news representatives to Mogadishu from Nairobi said he had heard from another pilot flying into the Somali capital reports this morning of new shooting.
The pilot ″only said another pilot in the vicinity reported heavy shooting,″ said a spokeswoman of A.D Aviation. ″They still don’t know if they will be able to land.″
It was impossible to ascertain due to widespread communications difficulties whether fighting had resumed or the shooting was part of celebrations that began after Siad Barre’s departure late Saturday.
The rebel army that ousted Siad Barre on Sunday appealed for foreign medical aid and calm.
A rebel statement late Sunday in London said the insurgents were ″calling on the dictator and his few remaining supporters to surrender immediately as they have no choice of continued resistance.″
Spokesman Stevan Van Praet said two members of his Doctors Without Border’s team witnessed Siad Barre’s departure by tank late Saturday with a small group of military men, but it was not known to where.
Mohamed Robleh, the London-based spokesman of the United Somali Congress, said Siad Barre was last spotted going south toward Merca or Kismayu, two small port towns.
Robleh said today that he had no update of events in Mogadishu.
He had said Sunday that Siad Barre may have been captured at the international airport but that proved incorrect.
The rebels seized state-run Radio Mogadishu and broadcast the announcement they had taken control of the capital Saturday night.
Later in the night, thousands of people danced through Mogadishu’s streets in celebration, said Dr. Marc Gastello Etchejorry of Doctors Without Borders.
Rebels took over the airport and by Sunday, he said ″the information from Mogadishu is that the fighting has finished. There is no more shooting.″
Van Praet said doctors there told him that after Siad Barre and his group fled, rebels and civilians poured in to loot the palace. ″It was a popular uprising,″ he said. ″Everybody was happy.″
Robleh said his United Somali Congress would announce an acting committee by Tuesday to run Somalia. He said the interim government would remain until representatives from the main rebel groups could meet to form a democratic government representing the nation’s various clans.
The rebels said more than 1,500 people had died in recent fighting.
They appealed to humanitarian organizations to help Somalians who were without food, water, medicine or shelter.
″Thousands of corpses in an advanced state of decomposition are laying in the streets. This could lead to an outbreak of cholera, typhoid and other forms of epidemic diseases,″ the rebels said in the communique received in London.
The rebels, who draw their strength from the large central Hawiye clan, have pledged to replace Siad Barre’s government with a multiparty democracy, hold free elections and allow regional autonomy for the arid nation’s clan- based people.
Siad Barre, a member of the tiny Marehan clan that comprises less than 1 percent of Somalia’s people, seized power in a bloodless coup. During his 21- year, one-party rule, he steered the predominantly Muslim nation through shifting alliances with the Soviets and the United States.
The United States was Siad Barre’s main backer from the 1970s until recent years, when it cut nearly all aid because of increasing reports of human rights abuses.
Africa Watch, a human rights group, claimed Somali government forces killed 40,000 to 50,000 unarmed civilians from June 1988 to January 1990.