Intense Fighting in Somali Capital Kills at Least 50

By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, November 10, 2007

NAIROBI, Nov. 9 -- At least 50 people were killed in the Somali capital of Mogadishu between Thursday and Friday afternoon, with many apparently shot execution-style and others perishing in the less discriminate blasts of Ethiopian tank shells, according to witnesses.

About 100 people were wounded during a brutal 24 hours after the bodies of two Ethiopian soldiers were dragged through the streets Thursday by angry mobs chanting, "God is great!"

Intense fighting between Ethiopian troops and insurgents raged Thursday afternoon and overnight, with Ethiopian snipers firing from rooftops in some areas, witnesses said.

The streets were strewn with corpses Friday morning, many with bullet wounds to the head.

Ethiopian tanks then rolled out and began firing in several neighborhoods of tin-walled houses considered to be insurgent strongholds.

By late afternoon, Mogadishu had fallen unnaturally quiet.

"This morning, there was mortar fire a few meters from here," a doctor in the capital said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns.

"But now I'm looking at a bird outside the window, and it's so extremely quiet," the doctor said. "You hear nothing at the moment. Only a plane hovering over the city."

Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in December, ousting a short-lived Islamic movement and installing a U.S.-backed transitional government considered friendlier to the U.S. foreign policy goal of hunting terrorism suspects.

An insurgency composed of Islamic fighters and clan militias has been battling the Ethiopians and Somali government forces ever since.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that the political and security situation in Mogadishu was so perilous that deploying a U.N. force was unrealistic.

The African Union has promised to send 8,000 peacekeepers to Somalia, but only about 1,600 Ugandan troops have arrived, and the prospects for more appear dim.

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