Mortars Hit Somali Capital

Friday, March 2nd 2007, 6:37 am
By: News On 6

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ Four mortar explosions rocked the Somali capital Friday, wounding six people _ including two children _ a day after an advance team of African peacekeepers arrived in the country, witnesses said.

The mortars fell near Mogadishu's port at midmorning, said Ali Jalahow, who lives near the area.

African peacekeepers will have to confront growing violence in the capital, Mogadishu. Since the country's transitional government and its Ethiopian backers drove out Islamic militants in December, insurgents have staged near-daily attacks, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.

Last week, remnants of the Islamic group threatened suicide attacks against the African peacekeepers.

Somalia has been mired in anarchy since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another. The transitional government was formed in 2004 with U.N. help in hopes of restoring order, but it has struggled to assert its authority.

The Ethiopian troops who helped the government move into the capital have begun withdrawing. The U.N. Security Council has approved the deployment of an African peacekeeping force in Somalia expected to reach a level of 8,000 troops. An advance team of about 30 troops arrived Thursday in the southern town of Baidoa.

Uganda, which has promised to send more than 1,000 troops, denied that its forces were in the advance team, though local police and witnesses said they were. On Friday, Captain Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the Ugandan peacekeeping mission, said the date for full deployment could not be specified for security reasons.