Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aidid's Death May Offer Chance for Peace in War-Torn Somalia

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aidid's Death May Offer Chance for Peace in War-Torn Somalia

Article excerpt

As more than 10,000 Somalis, many of them in tears, attended the funeral of warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid Friday, European observers said his demise may be the best hope for peace in this stricken land.

In Nairobi, Kenya, and other African cities outside Somalia, Somali refugees danced in the streets at the news of Aidid's death.

Aidid, 62, died Thursday from what his followers insisted was a heart attack. Intelligence sources said, however, that he died undergoing surgery for gunshot wounds suffered in factional fighting July 24.

The warlord, who was trained by the Italians when Somalia was an Italian colony, and later by Soviet military advisors, led a ragged army that humiliated U.S. forces. He was buried at his private residence at Haliwa in southern Mogadishu.

His flag-draped coffin was carried through streets of south Mogadishu in a Toyota pick-up decorated with flowers.

Aidid's arch-rival Ali Mahdi Mohamed, who controls northern Mogadishu and heads the largest tribal coalition opposing Aidid, issued a statement Friday calling for an unconditional cease-fire in the war-torn city. With the death of Aidid, Ali Mahdi becomes Somalia's most powerful political figure.

Ali Mahdi's statement, issued jointly with former Aidid aide, Osman Hassan Ali Atto, also called for a national reconciliation conference as soon as possible and warned Aidid's faction against laying claim to the presidency as the late general did.

Aidid led his militia against U.S. troops in a U.N. peacekeeping force sent to Somalia by President George Bush in December 1992 to restore order and distribute food and medical supplies to the starving population. Most of the humanitarian supplies sent to the country before that had been commandeered by the warring factions, and Pakistani troops sent to guard the supplies had been attacked.

Aidid's supporters killed dozens of U. …

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