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[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Somali rebels resume barrage on presidential palace

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2012 16:21:00 +0100

Somali rebels resume barrage on presidential palace

Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:11am GMT

By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU, March 20 (Reuters) - Islamist militants launched mortars at
Somalia's presidential palace for a second night running, drawing
retaliatory fire from African Union peacekeepers in some of the heaviest
fighting to rock the capital in months, residents said on Tuesday.

"The rebels targeted the palace but the shells landed just outside. There
were no casualties," the AU's AMISOM force spokesman, Paddy Ankunda, told

Some people living near Mogadishu's presidential compound said they would
flee the city, alarmed by the fiercest heavy weapons fire in the downtown
area since the al Shabaab rebel group withdrew most of its forces to
outlying areas.

The al Qaeda-linked insurgents said on Monday they would keep hitting the
presidential compound, which also houses key government ministries, with
mortars and suicide bombings.

A salvo of mortars on Sunday night killed at least five refugees from a
single family, and came less than a week after a suicide bomber blew himself
up outside the gate of Villa Somalia, as the presidential palace is known.

Publicly AMISOM says it is not clear where the short-range mortars aimed at
Villa Somalia being fired from. However, the heavily protected complex is
normally considered beyond the range of mortars launched from outside the
Somali capital.

Safia Ahmed said she would flee Mogadishu and return to Lafole, a rebel
stronghold 17 km (11 miles) to the south which she left in February amid
rumours Ugandan and Burundian soldiers would fight al Shabaab for control of
the town.

"I don't like al Shabaab but there is no shelling there," the mother of four
said. "Al Shabaab told us that those who fled to the capital would return,
but we turned a deaf ear. Now it has become true."

AMISOM said the militants also briefly attacked government troop positions
in Mogadishu's southern suburbs, near a roadblock known as Ex-control set up
on one of the main roads into the city centre. The peacekeepers reported no

(Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by George Obulutsa and Mark Heinrich)

C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved


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