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Somalia forces 'poorly trained'
By Tom Maliti
NAIROB, 23 Aug. 2007 - Somali forces fighting a bloody insurgency in the capital are poorly trained and equipped and receive no pay, says the country's interior minister.
However, the government was not relying on a military strategy to defeat the insurgents, said Somali Interior Minister Mohamed Mohamoud Guled.
According to Guled, the government used clan elders as mediators to negotiate with insurgents to stop fighting. Violence had gripped the Somali capital, Mogadishu, for the past eight months and thousands of civilians had been killed.
In the latest incident, a grenade attack on the convoy of the government's Ethiopian allies killed two civilians and wounded five others in north Mogadishu. One of the dead and three of the wounded were women, said witness Abdi-shakur Ga'al, a local garage owner.
Government 'will defeat insurgents'
Guled said: "We cannot deny that there are difficulties. We have got a lot of challenges ahead", adding that the government was confident it would defeat the insurgents.
In the past, Somali officials had said they had defeated the insurgents in Mogadishu, only for more fighting to begin. Somalia's government had fewer than 10 000 soldiers and 5 000 policemen, said Guled.
He said the UN Development Programme used to pay the salary of 1 800 policemen, but stopped payments in July.
Guled said: "The rest are not paid because the government has no local revenue." He did not elaborate on how the soldiers and policemen survived.
But a UN Development Programme official said the organization only paid 50% of stipends to 1 010 policemen, and not 1 800.
There had been a delay in payments because of checks to make sure the right policemen were paid, but the programme had not been stopped, said the official.
In the past, businessmen in Mogadishu's largest market, Bakara, had accused soldiers and policemen searching for arms of looting their premises.
In December, Ethiopian troops and Somalia government forces toppled Islamic fighters who controlled most of southern Somalia. The militants vowed to conduct an Iraq-style insurgency.
Somalia had been mired in chaos since 1991, after warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and later turned on each other. A UN-backed transitional government was formed in 2004, but was unable to assert its authority.