Agreement Reached On Deploying U.N. TRoops, But Fighting Flares
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ Heavy fighting between rival clans erupted today near the capital’s main port, where the United Nations hopes to send 500 troops to protect food aid to the starving country.
By midday, at least 30 dead and wounded had been taken to Mogadishu’s Digfer Hospital, where many lay bleeding profusely in dirty hallways.
The fighting was considered some of the most intense since a March cease- fire was signed by the two main factions fighting for control of the Horn of Africa nation.
The fighting has never completely stopped, but it generally has involved small, random skirmishes - usually over food - rather than prolonged battles.
International aid officials have expressed increasing alarm over the imminent starvation faced by an estimated 1.5 million Somalis - about a quarter of the country’s people.
The U.N. envoy to Somalia, Mohamed Sahnoun, today 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.
The troops are to protect food shipments, which frequently are looted by armed gangs that roam the lawless city.
Aidid, whose fighters control the southern part of Mogadishu, had long resisted U.N. troops being sent, but 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 stance on U.N. troops.
The fighting that erupted in the Medina district around the port today underlined the anarchy into which the capital has declined.
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.