Somalia pleads for outside help
Parliament wants foreign troops to battle insurgents
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somali lawmakers pleaded yesterday for international military intervention within 24 hours to help fight Islamic insurgents in the lawless African nation, where fierce fighting has resumed in the capital.
A suicide attack in western Somalia killed the country’s national security minister and four other government officials Thursday. And battles between rebels and government troops have left at least 10 people dead in Mogadishu since Friday, witnesses said.
The fighting also forced Parliament to meet in the presidential palace yesterday rather than its usual venue.
“We have, as a parliament, decided to ask the regional governments - like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti - as well as the international community to intervene militarily in Somalia within 24 hours to help the Somali nation,’’ said Parliament speaker Sheik Adam Mohamed Nor.
President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, who is also a member of parliament, did not take part but it was not clear why.
There was no immediate indication whether Somalia’s neighbors would answer Parliament’s plea for foreign troops. There is already an African Union force in Mogadishu, but its mandate is restricted to guarding government officials and installations.
Two years ago, Ethiopia deployed troops to support Somalia’s fragile, Western-backed government, but they were widely unpopular and were finally withdrawn in January after the election of the new president. Last month Ethiopia sent troops to the border regions of Somalia.
A surge in violence in May, which diplomats said was a major push by the insurgents to force the government out of its Mogadishu strongholds, killed nearly 200 civilians. Nearly 126,000 people have fled their homes since May 7, according to the UN refugee agency. The violence in May went on for about two weeks, but despite reduced fighting, Mogadishu residents continue to flee their homes.
The United Nations says an estimated 3.2 million Somalis - almost half the population - need food and other aid.
The attack that killed the government officials on Thursday also killed 31 other people, a hospital official there said
The extremist Islamic group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for that attack. Somalia’s president had blamed Al Qaeda. Counterterrorism experts have long feared Somalia was becoming a haven for the terror network, and the US State Department considers al-Shabab a terrorist group with links to Al Qaeda. Al-Shabab denies it.
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when the overthrow of a dictatorship plunged it into chaos.