Plane Arrival in Somalia Seen as Militia Aid
Thursday, July 27, 2006
MOGADISHU, Somalia, July A cargo plane landed in the Somali capital Wednesday, and the interim government said it was carrying Eritrean weapons and supplies for a rival Islamic militia.
Residents reported seeing a medium-size aircraft with no recognizable markings land at Mogadishu's old international airport. The plane was only the second to land at the airport since the Islamic militia reopened it days ago.
Hundreds of heavily armed militiamen prevented onlookers and journalists from entering the area.
"The plane was carrying antiaircraft missiles and other weapons donated by Eritrea to the Islamists," the deputy prime minister, Ismail Mohamed Hurre, said from Baidoa, 150 miles northwest of the capital and the base of the fragile interim government.
"We condemn this; it will add more problems to Somalia," he said, without citing evidence for why the government believed the plane had transported weapons.
Senior Islamic militiamen, who are in a standoff with the interim government, declined to comment. The militiamen took Mogadishu from U.S.-backed secular warlords in June and now control a large swath of southern Somalia.
One Islamic official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the plane had brought "small sewing machines, which were a gift from a friendly country."
The interim government alleges that Eritrea is arming the Islamic militia. The militia says Ethiopian troops have poured into Somalia to protect the government. Ethiopia has repeatedly denied sending soldiers to defend the government.
U.N. envoy Francois Lonseny Fall said Wednesday that Ethiopian troops were indeed stationed in Baidoa, and another southern town, Wajid. But he said reports of as many as 5,000 troops in Somalia were exaggerated.
Islamic leaders met Wednesday to decide whether to return to talks in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, with the government, which has indicated it is willing to negotiate.