Friday, March 30, 2007


Helicopter gunships have been used in a security crackdown. A helicopter in Somali capital has been shot down, as Ethiopian and Somali government troops battle to clear insurgents from Mogadishu.
"The helicopter looked like a ball of smoke and fire before crashing," Ruqiya Shafi Muhyadin told AP news agency as it crashed in suburb near the airport.
Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Ghedi insists the operation will continue as it is aimed at restoring stability.
Dozens of people died in heavy fighting on Thursday, ending a six-day truce.
Ethiopian helicopter gunship and tanks were deployed against the insurgents.
Elders of the Hawiye clan - the largest in Mogadishu - brokered a ceasefire with Ethiopian troops after heavy fighting last week, but Ethiopia denies any agreement.
Pro-government forces are reported to be battling the insurgents at close quarters near Mogadishu's main football stadium.
Dark smoke rose above the stadium, reports the AFP news agency.

Dozens of people died in heavy fighting on Thursday.
"We barely slept last night. The sky was lit up by shelling all night," said Mr Jamah.
"There are a lot of wounded, but there is no way to take them to the hospitals due to the fighting on the roads."
But Mr Ghedi said the media had exaggerated the scale of the fighting and also denied that his government was unpopular in Mogadishu.
"There are some insurgents in the city who have links with international terrorists and are fighting against the government and the people of Somalia - we are attacking their positions," Mr Ghedi told the BBC Network Africa programme by telephone from Saudi Arabia, where he is attending the Arab League summit.
On Thursday, crowds of people dragged bodies in uniform through the streets - it is not clear whether they belonged to Ethiopian or Somali soldiers.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told parliament that two-thirds of its troops have left Somalia and the remaining soldiers will leave in consultation with the African Union.
Ethiopian troops helped install the interim government last December, replacing the Islamists who had governed the city for six months.
Some 1,700 Ugandan troops are in Mogadishu as the advance party of an 8,000 strong AU force.
Mr Ghedi also said that plans for the national reconciliation conference in April were underway and they have invited moderate Islamic scholars for the conference.
"Those who denounce violence and recognise the transitional federal charter for Somalia are welcome for the conference," he said.
Western governments have called on President Abdullahi Yusuf's government to involve moderate leaders of the ousted Union of Islamic Courts in the national reconciliation conference that will be held in Mogadishu.



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