Somali president urges Mogadishu residents to fight rebels

November 14, 2007 - 0:0

NAIROBI (AFP) -- Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed Tuesday exhorted Mogadishu residents to help fight insurgents or suffer in government crackdowns in the violence-torn capital.

""My government is doing all it can to save the lives of the Somali people, but insurgents are responsible for the continued violence,"" Yusuf told a press conference in Nairobi.
""People in neighborhoods must also fight the Shabab and chase them away. Otherwise they are the ones who suffer in crackdowns,"" he said, referring to the radical armed wing of the main Somali Islamist movement.
Dozens of civilians have been killed and at least 114,000 displaced from Mogadishu in recent weeks in some of the worst fighting since April, when Ethiopian troops wrested control of Mogadishu from Islamists who briefly controlled large parts of the country.
Civilians have complained of indiscriminate shooting by Ethiopian forces, involved in their toughest clampdown against the insurgents. But the government says it is only targeting rebels.
""When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers,"" Yusuf said.
The recent clashes have worsened the humanitarian crisis that has dogged the nation for 16 years, with areas just outside the city struggling to cope with the latest influx of displaced people.
The Shabelle region -- known as Somalia's breadbasket -- has suffered its worst crop in 13 years and relief agencies have warned of major food shortages which threaten the lives of thousands.
Aid workers have also said that the few who remained in the worst-affected areas of Mogadishu were beyond the reach of the relief net and face dire conditions.
Yusuf also said he was in talks to find a new prime minister after the resignation of Ali Mohamed Gedi late last month.
Gedi was accused of failing to crush the insurgency and rebuild a nation that faces a mosaic of political, economic and cultural problems.
Bloody clan bickering and power struggles that intensified after 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre have scuppered many bids to stabilize Somalia.