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Somalia Headlines Dec. 31, 2008

Ethiopia 'packing up in Somalia'

Ethiopian troops have started to prepare to leave Somalia on the day they were supposed to complete their withdrawal, witnesses say.

The troops were packing mattresses, personal belongings and loading trucks with military supplies, they said.

But there was no sign that the Ethiopians had started to leave the capital Mogadishu, as they have promised to do by the end of the year.

Some fear the Ethiopian withdrawal could lead to a power vacuum.

But others say it could make it easier for a new government to be formed, including moderate Islamist forces.

The Ethiopian intervention to help government forces oust Islamists from the capital two years ago was deeply unpopular with many Somalis.

Various Islamist and nationalist groups now control much of southern Somalia. Government forces only control parts of Mogadishu and the town of Baidoa.

But hardline Islamist leader Sheik Muktar Robow said his forces would continue to fight government troops even after the Ethiopian troops leave.

"We will not stop fighting even if the Ethiopian troops withdraw because our aim is to implement Islamic law across Somalia," he said.

President Abdullahi Yusuf this week resigned after a power-struggle with his prime minister, partly over whether to negotiate with moderate Islamists.

Source: BBC

Leadership void root problem in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- The ongoing instability in Somalia is the result of a vacuum of leadership in the country, according to a top United Nations official.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, U.N. secretary-general special representative to Somalia, said Wednesday the crisis in the country has less to do with the decades of violence and more to do with a lack of political leadership, the United Nations reported.

Somalia, which hasn't had a functioning government since 1991, has drawn increased international attention for the escalation of pirate attacks on ships passing through the Gulf of Aden off the Somali coast. Ould-Abdallah's comments echo a growing chorus of criticism from groups like the Belgium-based International Crisis Group, which point out the root of the security problems are largely the result of the country's ongoing political crisis.

Ould-Abdallah called on leaders in Somalia to establish "accountable and committed national leadership" and continue to work toward the goals of the Djibouti peace process.

"Somalia is entering a new era," Ould-Abdallah said in a statement.

"Catch the train of history and mobilize all efforts to maintain solidarity among all brothers in order to recover the integrity, sovereignty and dignity of Somalia."

© 2008 United Press International

Nine Somali civilians killed in Mogadishu: witnesses

MOGADISHU (AFP) — Nine civilians were killed when Somali government forces fired mortar shells at a busy market area during fighting with Islamist insurgents in Mogadishu, witnesses told AFP Wednesday.

"The mortar shells started raining (down on) as people were going about their daily occupations after fighting broke out in the K4 area," said Mohamed Subow, a local resident.

"The mortar fired from that area struck Bakara market neighbourhood. At least nine people died, some of them in hospital," he said.

The incident took place on Tuesday.

Mawlid Mohamed Ali, a local grocer, said five civilians, including two women, died in one place, three in another and one in hospital.

Doctors at the Somali capital's main Medina hospital told AFP that 20 wounded people were brought in following the fighting.

Islamist insurgents battle Somali government forces almost daily in Mogadishu, where thousands of civilians have died since the 2006 Ethiopian invasion touched off a bloody guerrilla war.

Source: AFP

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