Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mogadishu Braces for Clan Violence

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mogadishu Braces for Clan Violence

Article excerpt

Submachine gunfire crackled across central Mogadishu Sunday on the eve of a march involving tens of thousands of people, a demonstration that threatens to explode into clan violence.

In an hour-long firefight Sunday over a water connection, two people were killed and three were wounded, Somalis said. The shooting broke out when a group from north Mogadishu tried to connect to a water pipe in south Mogadishu, Somalis said.

The clash took place near the Kilometer Four traffic circle in the southern stronghold of Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid, whose supporters held their regular Sunday rally a mile away. But it wasn't known whether those in the firefight were affiliated with Aidid.

Today's march has been called by Ali Mahdi Mohamed, whose followers control most of north Mogadishu, and who is Aidid's main rival. The organizers of the march plan to cross the Green Line into Aidid's territory in south Mogadishu.

On Sunday, Mohamed Nur Aliyo, Aidid's deputy, repeated warnings. "If they come over, we are not responsible for what will happen," Aliyo told hundreds of Aidid's followers at the rally. "They want this to create problems, not support peace."

Ali Mahdi had broadcast a message Saturday night saying, "If anyone tries to interfere, we will cross by force."

More guns were seen on the streets Sunday, and both sides reportedly were arming themselves.

There are fears that Ali Mahdi wants to provoke a fight in hopes that the 33-country U.N. force in Somalia will be forced to intervene and renew its fight against Aidid. U.N. sources said Ali Mahdi had refused their suggestions for less provocative routes for his followers' march.

U.N. soldiers are supposed to fire only when they are in danger, but an attack on U.N. forces today could drag them into the fray. If U.N. forces then were overwhelmed, U.S. soldiers could be forced to intervene. …

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