Agreement Reached On Deploying U.N. Troops, But Fighting Flares With AM-Somalia-Hospital
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ Some of the worst fighting in five months broke out Wednesday as a powerful warlord agreed to allow the deployment of 500 U.N. troops to protect food shipments to the capital’s starving people.
By midday, at least 30 dead and wounded had been brought from the pitched battle at the port to dilapidated Digfer Hospital. Many of the wounded lay bleeding in filthy hallways because the beds were already filled with 500 malnourished inmates.
International aid officials say up to 1.5 million Somalis - a quarter of the country - face imminent starvation due to war and drought. Shipments of food aid routinely have been commandeered by the armed bands that roam the lawless capital.
The U.N. envoy to Somalia, Mohamed Sahnoun, announced in Nairobi, Kenya, that he had reached agreement with Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid and his clan allies to bring in 500 U.N. soldiers to guard the food aid.
Aidid, whose fighters control the southern part of Mogadishu, had long resisted the deployment of U.N. troops. His opponent, interim president Gen. Mohamed Ali Mahdi, has supported U.N. intervention.
Aidid and Ali Mahdi have been fighting for dominance of the country since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was driven from power last January.
It was not immediately clear what prompted Aidid to change his position, but the country’s situation has clearly become increasingly perilous. Sahnoun said only about 88,000 tons of food have arrived since January, about a quarter of what is needed.
The fighting Wednesday was said to be some of the most intense since a March cease-fire was signed by Aidid’s and Ali Mahdi’s factions.
The fighting has never completely stopped, but it generally has involved small, random skirmishes - usually over food - rather than prolonged battles.
The fighting started Monday as a small incident involving a robbery and car theft, said Gen. Imtiaz Shaheen of Pakistan, the chief military observer for the small U.N. contingent already in Somalia.
The growing conflict still appeared limited to two clans, ″but it has the potential to spread,″ Shaheen said.
″This is the worst fighting ever in this part of the city,″ said Dr. Aweys Abdi Omar, chief surgeon at Digfer Hospital. ″Many of the people have been shot in the head. It is clearly the work of snipers.″
Many of Somalia’s doctors have fled the country. Aweys said his hospital is down to eight doctors, from 20 last fall. Despite weekly supplies from the Red Cross, the doctor said, the hospital has run out of sutures, antibiotics and almost all other supplies.
Sahnoun said he hoped the additional U.N. troops would be in place within three weeks. It was not immediately known what countries they would come from.
He acknowledged that the agreement would not solve all the security problems in Mogadishu.
″All Somali leaders have problems with their troops,″ Sahnoun said. ″None of them can claim he has total control of his men.