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 Shelling kills 12 in Somalia's capital

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PostSubject: Shelling kills 12 in Somalia's capital   Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:38 am

Shelling kills 12 in Somalia's capital
By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN, Associated Press Writer

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Mortar shells slammed into the Somali capital late Monday, killing at least 12 people including a mother and her three children and wounding dozens in an increasingly ferocious Islamic insurgency, witnesses said.

The shelling killed two people in the city's crowded Bakara Market, where residents can buy everything from sugar to assault rifles, and 10 in northern Mogadishu.

"I saw the dead bodies of at least 10 people, including three children and their mother who lives in a house next to mine," said resident Abdullahi Dhegey.

Medina Hospital officials said at least 50 people were wounded.

Somalia, which has not had an effective central government since 1991, is facing Africa's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

Last week, a director at the Somalia's Security Ministry said a radical Islamic group that was driven from power a year ago by a Western-supported offensive is making a significant comeback in Somalia and the government can do little to stop it.

Ethiopia, with tacit U.S. approval, sent soldiers to Somalia last year to wipe out the Council of Islamic Courts, but they soon launched a ferocious insurgency. A local aid group said 6,000 civilians have died this year alone, caught in the crossfire of mortar attacks, suicide bombings and street battles.

Somali troops and their Ethiopian allies have traded accusations with the increasingly brazen insurgents, with both sides blaming the other for indiscriminate shelling.

About 1,800 Ugandan peacekeepers are in Somalia, officially as the vanguard of a larger African Union peacekeeping force although no other country has sent reinforcements so far.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the new U.N. envoy for Somalia, on Monday called on the U.N. Security Council to allow Saudi Arabia to play a leading role in bringing peace to the violence-wracked country by using its "moral authority" to get more troops on the ground and bring the opposing parties together.

Ould-Abdallah said in New York that he wants to simultaneously launch fresh political talks and a new security initiative that would reinforce AU troops now in Somalia, ahead of an eventual takeover by U.N. peacekeepers.

"For this, Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two Muslim holiest sites and a close by neighbor with many Somali refugees should be invited to play a leading role," he told the council. "They have a moral authority. They have prestige."

The troops could come from any African or south Asian country, or one or two NATO countries, he said, citing Indonesia, Jordan, Pakistan and Bangladesh as possible troop contributors.

He told reporters that the response from council members was "very positive." Britain is drafting a Security Council statement to formally respond to Ould-Abdallah's briefing.

If he gets the council's green light for his twin-track approach, Ould-Abdallah said "I will approach the Saudis to say look, you have experience, you are a neighbor, you have your own method. Is it possible for you, through private channels, to initiate" contacts to reinforce security and promote reconciliation?

Somalia's insecurity was highlighted over the weekend when gunmen kidnapped a French journalist in northern Somalia.

Cameraman Gwen Le Gouil was kidnapped Sunday just outside Bossaso in the semiautonomous Puntland region, which is relatively stable in a country beset by chaos and violence. In recent months, however, it has increasingly become associated with rampant piracy off its coast.

A deputy governor in Puntland said Monday that Le Gouil is "safe and fine" and negotiations were under way to free him. The kidnappers were seeking about $70,000 in ransom, he said.

Bossaso is about 930 miles north of Mogadishu.

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