Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Somali Factions Agree to Talks as Marines Raid Arms Caches

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Somali Factions Agree to Talks as Marines Raid Arms Caches

Article excerpt

THE military cleanup of Somalia's vast array of weapons is under way, and has given hope to Somalis that peace might soon replace two years of internecine fighting.

One month after the first United States Marines stormed ashore to protect relief food from looters, they and forces from 20 nations - working under a United Nations Security Council mandate - have begun patrolling aggressively to rid the country of weapons. But there are concerns here over the UN's ability to assume control in the Marines' absence.

Roughly 900 US Marines yesterday swept through Mogadishu's Bekara market, hunting for guns and arms caches hidden by Somali gunmen and their controlling warlords. In one dusty building, following a tip by a Somali man in the crowd, a company of Marines broke in and discovered hundreds of shells and rounds of all sizes, a two-barrelled anti-aircraft gun with extra barrels, and boxes of British-made hand grenades.

"Singularly, it's not much," said Marine Maj. Gen. Charles Wilhelm, in charge of the Marine contingent of the 20,000 American forces in Somalia. "But if we keep finding what we are finding, together it is significant."

In their biggest raid, 400 Marines Friday took control of Mogadishu's best-stocked gun market, confiscating tanks, armored personnel carriers, and rocket launchers and mortars.

As yesterday's raid was under way, Somali warlords announced agreement on a cease-fire and to start disarming their militias.

In their statement, leaders of 15 factions concluding a week of talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, agreed on an agenda for national reconciliation talks starting in Addis Ababa on March 15. The statement said the cease-fire and the disarming of militias would start immediately and be monitored by a committee of factional representatives and UN military observers.

According to Reuters, the Somali leaders also agreed that:

* Militias will set up camps outside major towns, and will be disarmed no later than March 1.

* All armed civilians are to register weapons for disarmament in conjuction with the formation of a provisional government. …

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