Two killed as insurgents, troops clash in Somalia

Fragile cease-fire comes to bloody end as rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns used to battle Ethiopian-backed soldiers.

Somalia hurt 88 (photo credit: )
Somalia hurt 88
(photo credit: )
Insurgents using rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns battled Ethiopian-backed government troops early Thursday, killing two civilians as they walked down the street just one day after a fragile cease-fire here came to a bloody end, witnesses said. "I have seen government troops and insurgents fighting in my street as I was waking up," said Mogadishu resident Kibrin Nor. "The fighting is still going on." Wednesday's fighting killed at least five people, including a government soldier and three people struck by stray bullets on a minibus, according to witnesses and the Somali Red Crescent Society. Mogadishu's dominant clan, the Hawiye, had brokered a cease-fire about 10 days ago to end the worst fighting here in 15 years. Four days of bloodshed that started in late March killed at least hundreds of people - and possibly more than 1,000. In recent days, Somali and Ethiopian troops have been closing streets in Mogadishu and digging trenches, raising fears that a fresh bout of violence could be imminent. A Hawiye panel reported this week that the recent fighting killed more than 1,000 civilians and wounded 4,300. The estimate was a dramatic escalation in the death toll from the four days of bloodshed. An earlier estimate by a Somali human rights group said more than 1,000 civilians had been killed or wounded. The UN refugee agency says some 124,000 people have fled Mogadishu since the beginning of February. The fighting started late last month when Ethiopian troops used tanks and attack helicopters in an offensive to crush insurgents. The insurgents are linked to the Council of Islamic Courts, which was driven from power in December by Somali and Ethiopian soldiers, accompanied by US special forces. The US has accused the courts of having ties to al-Qaida. The militants reject any secular government, and have sworn to fight until Somalia becomes an Islamic emirate. Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned against each other. A national government was established in 2004, but has failed to assert any real control. The recent violence has forced officials to postpone until May 16 a reconciliation conference that had been scheduled for this month, the Arab League's Special Envoy for Somalia, Samir Hosni, told The Associated Press.