KISMAYU, Somalia — Trying to restore order to this port city before American troops withdraw, the U.S.-led military coalition told a top warlord Tuesday to get his fighters out of town or face military action.
The ultimatum to Mohamed Siad Hirsi, known as Gen. Morgan, came after his supporters reclaimed part of Kismayu in street fighting that killed as many as two dozen people Monday. Morgan claimed that some of his followers had acted without his knowledge or consent.
But a warning message signed by U.S. special envoy Robert B. Oakley and Marine Lt. Gen. Robert B. Johnston, coalition commander, insisted that Morgan knew.
"There can be no excuse or pardon for the deliberate, well-planned actions of your forces and senior commanders in attacking Kismayu," said the letter being messaged by radio to Morgan.
It demanded that all of Morgan's forces and weapons be moved to areas north of Dobley, 50 miles northwest of Kismayu, by midnight Thursday.
"If any of your forces are found outside of these locations on Feb. 26 or thereafter, they will be engaged," the letter said. "Any weapons will be destroyed."
Gunfire erupted regularly Tuesday in Kismayu, and U.S. and Belgian troops patrolled warily.
In Mogadishu, several hundred youths stoned vehicles, burned tires and placed barricades in the streets Tuesday night before being dispersed by gunfire by Nigerian troops. Col. Fred Peck, a U.S. spokesman, said coalition forces were trying to avoid confrontation because they suspected that the unrest in the Somali capital resulted from youths getting out of hand on the first night of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.
Monday's fighting in Kismayu postponed a planned withdrawal of U.S. forces, who were to turn over full command to Belgian troops. Belgian Lt. Col. George Marinus said Tuesday that the Americans now "will not leave Kismayu until order has been restored."