Monday, March 3, 2008

U.S. bombs Somalia again:

Planes 'fire' at Somali town

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March 3, 2008

Mogadishu - Planes fired three missiles at a Somali town held by Islamic extremists early on Monday, destroying a home and seriously injuring eight people, including four children, residents and police said.

The missiles that struck Dobley, some six kilometres from the Kenyan border, were from military aircraft, but it was not clear from which country they originated, witnesses said. Remnants of an Islamic force that had once ruled much of southern Somalia took over Dobley last week.

Last year, the United States shelled suspected al-Qaeda targeted in Somalia, one of the most lawless and violent countries in the world. Neither US Africa Command nor US Central Command said they were aware of Monday's missile strike.

A spokesperson for the US Embassy in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, whose mandate covered Somalia, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

"We woke up with a loud and big bang and when we came out we found our neighbour's house completely obliterated as if no house existed here," a resident of the town, Fatuma Abdullahi, said. "We are taking shelter under trees. Three planes were flying over our heads."

6 people trapped in rubble

A police officer who gave only his first name, Siyad, because he was not authorised to speak to the media said the eight wounded were hit by shrapnel. He also said the planes were military aircraft.

An aid worker in Dobley said up to six people were still trapped in the rubble by midday. It was not clear if these victims were included in the police officer's tally.

"A minimum of two bombs were dropped," the aid worker, who asked that his name not be used because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said. "Between four and six people are in the rubble."

Clan elder Ahmed Nur Dalab said a senior Islamic official, Hassan Turki, was in town on Sunday to mediate between his fighters and a militia loyal to the government. Turki's forces took over Dobley last week.

Govt shutters 3 radio stations

In early 2007, Somali troops and their Ethiopian allies drove out a radical Islamic group to which Turki was allied that had taken over much of southern Somalia. The Islamic forces had fought to regain power.

Somalia had been mired in chaos since 1991, after warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

On Monday, a rights group said all sides in Somalia's long-running conflict were united in at least one goal - trying to curtail independent media by "killing, arresting and threatening" reporters.

The report by London-based Amnesty International was released a day after government raids shut down three independent radio stations in Mogadishu. The soldiers forced the stations off the air, arrested a journalist and seized equipment.

"The troops came in, took our equipment and arrested our boss without explanation. We do not know why they are targeting us," said Mohamed Abdullahi, a Shabelle radio staff member.