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Somali Government Calls for Peacekeepers

13 February 2007

Uganda's parliament on Tuesday approved sending 1,500 peacekeepers to Somalia. Faced with a worsening security situation in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the country's prime minister says a robust peacekeeping force is urgently to stabilize the country. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu has more from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

Residents in Mogadishu awoke to more violence in the capital, including an overnight grenade attack on the house of a government minister.

Commerce Minister Abdullahi Ahmed Afrah was at home, but was not hurt in the attack.

A short time later, a police station was attacked and four mortars exploded near the port of Mogadishu.

Somali journalists report that many civilians living near places where attacks have occurred - the airport, seaport, the presidential palace, military bases, and police stations - are fleeing the city.

Attacks in those places have occurred almost daily in the capital, since Ethiopian and interim government forces drove out the country's radical Islamist movement in late December.

But the intensity and number of attacks have increased steadily in recent weeks, prompting fears that Somalia's U.N.-backed, secular government may now be confronting the beginning of an Iraq-style insurgency.

Islamist leaders, who lost power after ruling much of southern Somalia for nearly seven months, have vowed to launch a guerrilla war against the interim government and Ethiopian troops.

On the way to an Africa-France summit in Paris, Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi stopped briefly in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

He told reporters that the violence in Mogadishu is being carried out almost exclusively by supporters of the defeated Islamic Courts Union and what he called "their terrorist allies."

"Do you believe they are innocent after the killings, the destruction made by the so-called Islamic courts?" he asked. "They are not innocent. What is happening in Mogadishu is a clear sign that there are still opportunists who are not willing for peace for the benefit of the Somali people. In this regard, we are appealing to the international community, specifically the African Union and IGAD countries, to deploy soon African Union peacekeepers for Somalia."

Officials of the 53-member African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia say a peacekeeper deployment date should be announced in the next two days.

8,000 troops are needed, but only half that number has been pledged. Countries offering to send troops include Uganda, Nigeria, Burundi, Malawi, and Ghana.

Meanwhile, a group calling itself the People's Resistance Movement has posted a message on an internet web site warning that the group would shoot down any aircraft trying to land or take off from the main airport in Mogadishu.

The well-armed radical group is believed to be made up of former members of the Islamic Courts Union, who have repeatedly threatened to kill foreign peacekeepers if they are sent to Somalia.

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