Archive for Sunday, January 7, 2001

Somalia gunmen attack lawmakers

January 7, 2001

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— Militia gunmen attacked government forces escorting the parliament's speaker and other officials on Saturday, killing at least nine people and wounding dozens of others, witnesses said. The fate of the officials was unknown.

More than 200 Rahanwein Resistance Army gunmen ambushed speaker Abdalla Derow Issak's entourage as it was leaving Teiglow village, 185 miles northwest of Mogadishu, in the RRA-controlled Bakol region. The officials, accompanied by about 100 government soldiers, were in Bakol to seek support for the government of this East African nation.

The attack was the latest setback for the new national government led by President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, who has been facing stiff resistance from armed militias since he was elected at a national reconciliation conference in neighboring Djibouti in August.

Somalia had not had a central government since 1991, when opposition leaders joined forces to oust dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Factional leaders then fought with each other, turning the nation of 7 million into battling fiefdoms ruled by heavily armed militias.

The RRA, reportedly backed by neighboring Ethiopia, has been divided in recent months. Issak, the secretary general of the RRA, was elected speaker by the 245-member assembly after Hassan took power, but the RRA chairman, Hassan Mohamed Nur, has openly refused to recognize the new government.

In the attack early Saturday, the RRA gunman pelted the soldiers with heavy gunfire, including anti-craft fire, using 15 trucks specially fitted with anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns in the ambush, said the witnesses, who asked not to be identified.

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