NAIROBI, JULY 12 -- Mobs shot, beat and stoned to death three news photographers in Somalia's war-torn capital today after a U.S. aerial attack on a warlord's stronghold in which at least 13 Somali militiamen were reported killed.
Several other journalists were wounded in the street melee in Mogadishu, and one newsman was missing and presumed dead. A U.N. spokesman said 13 Somali militiamen were known to have died in the air raid and 11 others were wounded. A spokesman for warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed's militia said the air strike was directed at a meeting of clan elders and that more than 70 Somalis were killed. Aideed, held responsible by U.N. officials for bloody attacks on U.N. personnel, has eluded a U.N. order for his arrest.
Today's mob violence was the first directed specifically at foreign journalists in two years of strife. Hansjoerg Krauss, a German photographer with the Associated Press, was confirmed dead, along with Hosea D. Maina, a Kenyan, and Dan Eldon, a British-born resident of Kenya, both photographers for the Reuter news agency.
The violence underscored the deteriorating security situation in Mogadishu, where thousands of United Nations troops are garrisoned in their compound, unable to guarantee safety on the streets. As Mogadishu slides further toward full-scale guerrilla war, anger among many Somalis toward foreigners has been growing.
In the past week, U.N. troops and Somali employees of the United Nations have been attacked and killed in what were once considered the safest parts of the city -- the port, the airport and the main road in front of the U.S. Embassy compound. Violence also has occurred on the embassy's protected grounds, where four Norwegian peace keepers were wounded over the weekend by a rocket grenade launched over the wall.
U.N. forces have responded with selective air attacks on suspected militia positions and snipers' hide-outs. But the U.N. troops have retreated to their compound, leaving journalists, aid workers and other foreigners unprotected.
Barrie Walkley, U.N. spokesman in Somalia, confirmed by telephone that Reuter photographer Eldon had been beaten to death. AP photographer Krauss was found dead, his body riddled with bullets and his head smashed with stones, Walkley said. Reuter photographer Maina was believed stoned to death.
A Kenyan sound man for Reuter television service, Anthony Macharia, was missing and presumed dead, Reuter reporters in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, said. A Reuter television cameraman, Mohamed Shafi, was shot twice but managed to escape the mob, and he later described how he ran for his life. Scott Peterson, an American reporter for the Daily Telegraph of London, was reported to have received machete cuts on his head.
The violence came after U.S. forces originally sent to Somalia on a humanitarian mission attacked a residential compound belonging to a key ally of warlord Aideed. The compound was described as a command and control center for Aideed's militia.
Walkley said there was "no collateral damage whatsoever" to areas outside the compound as a result of the attack, carried out by four scout aircraft, seven Blackhawk reconnaissance helicopters and six Cobra helicopter gunships. The U.S. forces fired 16 TOW missiles and more than 2,000 cannon rounds into the compound, Walkley said.
After the strike, Walkley said, the helicopters dropped ground troops into the compound, and the soldiers reported seeing 13 dead militiamen and 11 wounded.
"All were adult males. All were armed," Walkley said. "As far as we are aware, no innocent civilians were injured in the attack." He said the operation lasted only a few minutes, and photographs later showed it had achieved pinpoint accuracy.
But Hussein Dimdil, the spokesman for Aideed's militia, said 73 civilians were killed and 200 wounded in the air strike. The Associated Press quoted Dimdil as saying elders of Aideed's clan were meeting in the compound to discuss ways to end the violence. "We only want peace and reconciliation, and all we get is bombs," Dimdil said.
The early morning raid was in response to ambushes on U.N. personnel, believed carried out by Aideed's militia. U.N. officials have held Aideed's forces responsible for attacks in which 35 U.N. soldiers, including 24 Pakistanis, were killed and 137 were wounded since June 5. In one of the bloodiest assaults last week, several Somali U.N. employees were killed execution-style after distributing copies of a U.N. propoganda newsletter around the city.
Reporters at a nearby hotel said several trucks arrived soon after today's air raid carrying the bodies of at least 16 people said to have died in the attack.
According to reporters and witnesses, journalists at the hotel were invited to come with a militia representative to visit the site of the raid in a densely populated part of the city. Frequently after such air strikes, Aideed's spokesmen have appeared at the hotel where many journalists stay to present alleged witnesses to damage caused by U.N. forces.
This time, according to reporters at the scene, the journalists encountered a hostile mob when they entered the damaged compound. The crowd soon began throwing stones and firing handguns, and the reporters ran for their lives.
Eldon's body was identified at a U.S. Army hospital. Somali translators working for the news agencies recovered the bodies of Maina and Krauss, known as "Hansi."
Only one other foreign journalist, French sound technician Jean-Claude Jumel, has been killed in Somalia. His car was ambushed June 18.
The Associated Press reported from Rome:
Italy asked for a halt to U.N. military action in Somalia to bring a calmer atmosphere for negotiations to reconcile Somali factions and disarm their militias.
Defense Minister Fabio Fabbri proposed the cooling-off period, saying that if it failed to bring peace, the 29-nation U.N. military coalition could then conduct "a disarming operation in a grand manner."
Debate over Italy's involvement in Somalia was stirred when Somali gunmen ambushed Italian troops July 2, killing three soldiers and wounding more than 20. They were the first Italian ground troops killed in combat since World War II.