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U.S. Marine Faces Hearing in Mogadishu for Killing 13-Year-Old

March 16, 1993

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ A Marine who shot to death a 13-year-old Somali who he thought was carrying a weapon faces a hearing Tuesday to determine if a court-martial is necessary.

Sgt. Walter Andrew Johnson, 25, of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, fired one shot on Feb. 4 as the boy rushed at his vehicle. Johnson said he believed the boy was carrying an object that might be a grenade. No weapon was found.

The Article 32 hearing is the second of its type to be held since the Operation Restore Hope coalition of allied forces, most of them American, arrived Dec. 9 to safeguard food shipments in war-torn Somalia.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Harry Conde, 33, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, faces a possible court-martial for shooting a 13-year-old boy who was trying to steal his sunglasses. A bystander also was injured. A two-day hearing ended March 8, but no decision has been made on whether the case will proceed.

Meanwhile, peace talks involving Somalia’s rival factions got under way Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as Lt. Gen. Cevik Bir of Turkey flew to Mogadishu to assume command of the military coalition.

His arrival came on what Marine Col. Fred Peck, the U.S. military spokesman, called the quietest day in Mogadishu since December.

Even so, soldiers discovered the bodies of four Somali men around the city in what appeared to be unrelated incidents, evidence that the streets remain dangerous.

U.N. officials said heavy rains in Ethiopia continued to contribute to flooding on the Shabeelle River about 100 miles from Mogadishu.

Thousands of residents have evacuated villages in the area.

At the opening of peace talks, Somali faction leaders proposed creating regional administrations to provide the security U.N. officials are demanding for relief and rebuilding efforts.

U.N. officials said it could take further conferences to build the first semblance of government in a land that has remained lawless and devastated since a civil war toppled dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in January 1991.

Mohamed Hassan Awali, foreign minister for top warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, said Aidid complained at the closed session that U.S. forces had treated his faction unfairly.

The comment followed a broadcast by Aidid’s radio station in Mogadishu on Sunday that claimed American troops were interfering in his faction’s affairs.

The radio said U.S. troops disarmed Aidid’s Somali National Alliance and its supporters, ″leaving bandits with their arms.″

Clan leader Col. Omar Jess claimed in an interview in the Brussels, Belgium daily Le Soir on Monday that he has hidden arms from U.N. forces to prepare for battle against rival General Morgan for control of southern Kismayu.

Jess said U.N. forces allowed Morgan back into Kismayu and he took back large chunks of the strategic port while Jess’ fighters were being disarmed. Jess mainly blamed the U.S. military and implied they favored Morgan.

Update hourly