United Nations Workers Slain In Ambush
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ As many as six Somali employees of the United Nations were slain Wednesday in an ambush in Mogadishu, and the U.N. envoy to Somalia promised that peacekeepers will hunt the gunmen down.
Two of the Somalis were dragged from their car and shot dead in a busy street market in Mogadishu. Four others wounded in the attack were abducted and presumed dead, said the envoy, retired U.S. Adm. Jonathan Howe.
Howe described the ambush as an act of deliberate terrorism against U.N employees by gunmen loyal to fugitive warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The attack took place about a mile from U.N. headquarters.
″Criminal attacks such as this...will not go unpunished,″ Howe said. ″We will use all the means at our disposal to find the perpetrators of these crimes.″
The United Nations mounted a weeklong offensive against Aidid’s power bases last month after blaming him for the ambush deaths of 24 Pakistani peacekeepers. Aidid has escaped and is in hiding, but his supporters have been linked to continuing attacks against U.N. workers.
The victims of Wednesday’s ambush worked as drivers or distributors for a U.N. office that puts out a daily newsheet on the activities and policies of the 29-nation peacekeeping alliance.
They were on their way to collect copies of the newsheet, Maanta - ″today″ in the Somali language - when an unknown number of gunmen attacked their car.
In other developments Wednesday, snipers fired on a U.N. vehicle headed to an airfield in southern Mogadishu, injuring two passengers. Rifle grenades were fired at the airfield, but no casualties or damage were reported.
Two American soldiers, meanwhile, were reported recovering from injuries received in an overnight rocket attack on facilities they were guarding in southwestern Mogadishu. Their names were not released. U.N. spokesman Barrie Walkley said the ambush of the Maanta employees was the first time Somalis who worked for the United Nations were fatally attacked.
Local employees recently reported receiving death threats from people who accused them of being traitors to Somali political groups opposed to foreign intervention, Walkley said.
U.S. Rep. Harry A. Johnston (D-Fla.), chairman of the congressional foreign affairs subcommittee on Africa, met with Somali leaders in Mogadishu on Wednesday, including some belonging to Aidid’s Habir Gedir clan.
He said the majority of Somalis appeared to support U.N. operations, and wanted the foreign troops to continue restoring order and assisting with humanitarian aid.
″We were told if we pull the plug it would be a gross injustice to the majority of the people,″ Johnston said.
Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), who was traveling with Johnston, said the U.N. force appeared determined not to let security problems delay Somalia’s return to normality.
″There have been setbacks, but spirits are high,″ he said.
On Tuesday, American troops with the U.N. operation mounted a large-scale house-to-house weapons search to help regain control of streets in southern Mogadishu that have been the scene of several bloody battles since the 24 Pakistani peacekeepers were slain on June 5.