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Somalia Clan Clash Kills 5 CNN Workers : Africa: Peacekeeping forces also are attacked. U.N. chief says effort to disarm Somalis will continue.

September 11, 1993| From Times Wire Services

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Five Somalis working for Cable News Network were killed and four wounded Friday in a three-hour battle between rival clansmen in Mogadishu.

It was some of the heaviest clan fighting in months and climaxed a second day in which U.N. peacekeepers were attacked. U.N. officials said that at least 27 mortar shells or rocket-propelled grenades were fired at U.N. positions Friday and that Pakistani soldiers were fired on again while clearing roadblocks. No U.N. casualties were reported.

The fighting came a day after U.S. helicopter gunships fired machine guns and rockets at Somalis who ambushed Pakistani troops and American combat engineers clearing a road. U.N. officials blamed fugitive warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid's forces for the ambush Thursday.

Aidid's supporters said at least 125 men, women and children died. There was no independent confirmation of the figure. The International Committee of the Red Cross said hospitals in Mogadishu treated 107 wounded Somalis from the attack but said there were no details of Somali dead.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali expressed regret Friday over the high death toll but said U.N. efforts to disarm Somalis will continue.

An American commander said Friday that the heavy assault Thursday was necessary to save the U.N. force. One Pakistani was killed and two Americans and two other Pakistanis were wounded.

The bloodshed in Somalia's capital has fueled growing congressional opposition to U.S. participation in Somalia. The Senate voted 90 to 7 late Thursday to urge the President to ask Congress by Nov. 15 to approve the continued presence of U.S. troops.

The Administration indicated Friday that it has no plans to change its approach.

President Clinton "has made clear that he supports the ongoing U.N. mission in Somalia," White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers told reporters.

"If we were to leave now . . . we would plunge that country back into chaos, if not immediately, within a couple of months. We can't allow that to happen," she said.

The CNN workers were shot in what apparently began as an attempt to hijack a vehicle rented by the network. The CNN workers belonged to a subclan of the Hawayi clan, and the carjackers were from another subclan.

Militiamen from each subclan quickly rushed in and began firing at each other. The battle swirled most of the afternoon around a hotel housing foreign journalists.

The American officer who led Thursday's helicopter assault on Somali militiamen to relieve the U.N. road-clearing party told reporters that he knew there were women among the fighters when his gunships opened fire.

But Col. Mike Dallas, commander of the U.S. Quick Reaction Force, defended the action, saying the Americans and Pakistanis were pinned down by heavy fire and in danger of being overwhelmed.

He said about 200 Somalis attacked from behind a 600-foot stretch of masonry wall, lobbing hand grenades and firing machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and 106-millimeter recoilless rifles.

"I did see women with that group of people engaging those forces," Dallas said. "I do not know how many. I did not see children.

"It is regrettable if women and children were killed. But all the people involved on the ground, or who in any way participated in the action, had in mind to kill the U.N. soldiers and were considered combatants. My job is to protect the U.N. forces, and we did."

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