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Peace Accord Brings More Violence to Somalia
By Alisha Ryu
Nairobi, 13 June 2008 - The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that at least 30 civilians were killed and nearly 100 wounded in Mogadishu alone this week.
Witnesses say Shabab fighters, armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, have ambushed government and Ethiopian troops in various parts of the capital, including a deadly attack on Thursday on forces patrolling a road near the presidential palace.
On the same day and for the second time this month, the Shabab launched mortars at Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf at Mogadishu's airport as he tried to board a flight to Ethiopia.
Late Wednesday, residents in the border town of Ferfer in the ethnically Somali Ogaden region of Ethiopia say Shabab fighters attacked two Ethiopian military bases there and sparked heavy fighting that lasted nearly two hours. The militants briefly seized the town before withdrawing.
The spokesman for the Shabab group, Sheik Muktar Robow, says the attacks this week underscore the group's determination to defy what he called a false cease-fire agreement signed by men who do not represent his group.
Robow says Shabab fighters attacked the town of Ferfer and will continue to attack Ethiopians wherever they are until they are defeated. He went on to say, "We will see if those who signed the agreement can bring about a real cease-fire."
The Shabab, along with hardliners in an Eritrea-based opposition group called the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, boycotted the U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Djibouti. Those talks produced an agreement on Monday that calls for a three-month truce and the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops after the deployment of a sizeable force of U.N. peacekeepers in Somalia.
The accord has been hailed by western and Arab diplomats as a major breakthrough in efforts to end the country's bloody year-and-a-half-long insurgency. But the former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Horn of Africa observer David Shinn says the deal is likely to achieve nothing unless the Somali people themselves feel it is worth supporting.
"They will dictate whether this agreement has broad support in Somalia," he said. "If it does, that will start chipping away at the support the Shabab has. And that is when the international community would have to step in with its effort to reconstruct the country. But they cannot do that until there is relative stability and security in the country."
Recently designated as a terrorist organization by the United States for its alleged ties to al-Qaida, the Shabab once functioned as the radical military wing of Somalia's Islamic Courts Union. The courts, divided between moderates and hardliners, held power for six months before it was driven out of Mogadishu by Ethiopia-led forces in late 2006.
It later re-grouped in Eritrea as an Islamist-led opposition group and has led the insurgency to topple the transitional federal government and force the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somali soil.