From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sat Feb 07 2009 - 19:57:48 EST
Rebels target new Somali president with mortars
Sat Feb 7, 2009 11:12pm IST
By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Rebels fired mortar bombs at the presidential palace
in Mogadishu on Saturday hours after Somalia's new President Sheikh Sharif
Ahmed returned to the capital following his election at U.N.-led talks in
Ahmed has promised to build on his record of bringing security when his
Islamist forces ruled much of the country, which has been racked by war for
African Union peacekeepers said the attack was intended to provoke return
"We just ignored them," Major Barigye Ba-Hoku, spokesman for the AU's small
AMISOM mission in the city, told Reuters.
"They are provocative and expect us to respond but we are not ready to. They
want an excuse to accuse AMISOM of attacking civilians. We never do that."
A government security officer said several mortars were fired at the hilltop
Villa Somalia palace, but no one was hurt.
Abdullahi Qadar, an official working for the new president, said Ahmed had
ordered government forces and the AU peacekeepers not to return fire to
avoid civilian casualties.
Ahmed, a moderate, headed a sharia courts group that brought some stability
to Mogadishu and most of southern Somalia in 2006, before Washington's main
regional ally Ethiopia invaded to oust them. Ethiopia's military withdrew
last month, clearing the way for Ahmed's election in Djibouti a week ago.
Ahmed was then feted at a Feb. 1-4 African Union summit hosted this week by
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi -- whose army drove his Islamists from
power just two years ago.
He said he and Meles had agreed to work together for a better Horn of Africa
and for an end to conflict in the region.
The hardline al Shabaab group, which is on Washington's list of foreign
terrorist groups, said before the vote it would start a new campaign of
hit-and-run attacks on the government -- whoever came to power.
(Additional reporting by Abdi Guled)
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
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