U.N. Envoy Says U.S.-Led Forces Failed to Disarm Factions
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ The U.S.-led coalition has so far failed to disarm factions and halt clan fighting, U.N. envoy Ismat Kittani said today. He did not, however, call for lengthening the tour of American combat troops.
Also today, a hearing began for a U.S. Marine accused of using excessive force when he shot and wounded a Somali teen-ager he believed tried to steal his sunglasses.
Kittani said the goal of establishing a secure environment for relief shipments ″is far from complete.
″If we need any stark evidence, the violence in Kismayu and Mogadishu provided that,″ he said, referring to renewed fighting in the southern port and rioting in the capital last week.
Kittani, who plans to leave for New York next week, spoke at a farewell news conference. His successor is yet to be named.
″We have barely scratched the surface of disarming the factions,″ he said. But he added that he wasn’t urging that Washington keep combat troops in Somalia after the handover.
Washington has complained of U.N. foot-dragging in taking over Operation Restore Hope. The U.S-led task force that arrived in Somalia on Dec. 9 to secure relief shipments currently comprises about 15,000 U.S. troops and 14,000 soldiers from 22 other nations.
In a report Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said the change in command would begin May 1. He proposed to the Security Council that a 28,000-member U.N. contingent replace the U.S.-led force.
A U.S. quick-reaction force will remain, along with some other Americans, Boutros-Ghali said.
U.S. military officials in Mogadishu hope to have most of their troops out by the end of April.
American troops have at times found themselves caught up in Somalia’s violence. Since dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted in January 1991, the country has fallen into an anarchy of clan fighting and famine, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.
Troops riding in convoys in Mogadishu often face harassment from youths who hurl stones or steal food and other items from the back of their trucks.
Gunnery Sgt. Harry Conde, 33, a radar technician based in Twentynine Palms, Calif., shot a 17-year-old while riding in a convoy in central Mogadishu on Feb. 2.
Today’s hearing in his case, the first of its kind during Operation Restore Hope, could lead to a court martial and possibly a prison sentence.
A pretrial hearing is also planned for Sgt. Walter Andrew Johnson, 25, who on Feb. 4 shot and killed a boy who rushed toward his vehicle holding a suspicious object. Johnson’s hometown was not immediately available.
At least two other shootings of Somalis by U.S. troops are being investigated to determine whether excessive force was used.
Commanders say they plan to distribute spray cans of cayenne pepper to soldiers to repel petty attackers.
At least 20 Somalis have been killed by troops in the U.S. led force. Six American soldiers have been killed in Somalia, including a man killed Wednesday in a land mine explosion.