Somali parliament authorizes gov't to declare martial law

Ethiopian jets bombarded at least one southern Somali village, killing at least three people.

somalia 88 (photo credit: )
somalia 88
(photo credit: )
Somali lawmakers have voted to authorize the government to declare martial law, giving support to the country's internationally recognized leaders in their struggle to assert their authority over an Islamic movement until recently controlled much of southern Somalia. Parliament's approval allows the government to impose martial law for a period of three months, starting at a time of its choosing, said Osman Ilmi Boqore, who made the announcement Saturday during a parliament session broadcast live on a government-owned radio station. Later, Ethiopian jets bombarded at least one southern Somalia village, killing at least three people, a traditional elder said. Abdi Rashid Sheikh Ahmed told The Associated Press on the phone from the town of Af Madow that residents of Bankajiiro village came to his town with three dead relatives, saying they had died during the bombardment. It was not clear why the Ethiopians bombarded Bankajiiro, and Ethiopian officers in the capital, Mogadishu, do not speak to journalists. Lawmaker Abdulrashid Hidig, speaking from the port town of Kismayo, and government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari confirmed that they had heard reports of airstrikes but said that they did not have any details. Boqore said 154 members of Somalia's transitional parliament voted by a show of hands in favor of a government motion to impose martial law in the country. He said two lawmakers voted against the motion. The session took place in the southern Somali town of Baidoa. The remainder of Somalia's 275 lawmakers were not present during the session and were either in the capital, Mogadishu, or in neighboring Kenya or elsewhere. "After long debate on this issue, most of the MPs have voted in favor, so that law has been passed by parliament," Boqore told the lawmakers. Dinari told The Associated Press that martial law will take effect once President Abdullahi Yusuf signs a decree to impose it. Dinari said he did not know when Yusuf would sign such a decree. The motion includes a pledge to protect the rights of citizens during the three-month period. The vote took place as government troops and allied Ethiopian soldiers began house-to-house searches for weapons near Mogadishu's main airport. On Friday, Ethiopian-backed government forces captured the last remaining stronghold of the Islamic movement in Somalia, and warlords met with the president and promised to enlist their militiamen in the army. The fall of Ras Kamboni, at the southern tip of Somalia and just three kilometers (two miles) from the Kenyan border, occurred as Yusuf met with clan warlords to discuss establishing enough security to allow international peacekeepers to deploy in Somalia _ and to protect his government until it can establish an effective police force and army. Yusuf's government has only been able to move into Mogadishu because Ethiopian troops two weeks ago routed an Islamic fundamentalist movement that had controlled most of southern Somalia for the past six months. Yusuf must now deal with clan divisions that have spoiled the previous 13 attempts to form an effective government since the last one collapsed in 1991. Besides clan divisions, remnants of the Islamic movement and resentment of Ethiopia's intervention also are likely to bedevil the government for some time to come.