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Somalia leader shelled upon return to capital

March 14, 2007|From Reuters

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA — Mortar rounds crashed into the presidential palace here Tuesday, hours after President Abdullahi Yusuf flew back into this chaotic capital.

Yusuf's interim government voted overwhelmingly Monday to move to the city, despite near-daily insurgent attacks blamed on an Islamist movement defeated two months ago.

"We saw several mortars flying over us toward the palace," said one woman who lives nearby and asked not to be named.

Residents said government troops and their Ethiopian allies based at the hilltop Villa Somalia compound immediately returned fire with artillery. At least three areas in the city were said to have been hit, but details were scarce.

In New York, Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa's ambassador to the United Nations and the current Security Council president, said the council condemned the attacks against an African Union force in Somalia and the leaders of the country's transitional institutions.

"The members of the council also express their great concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation," he said.

In other violence Tuesday in Mogadishu, a remote-controlled bomb -- the first known use of such a device in Somalia's insurgency -- destroyed the car of a city official, although it was unclear whether he was in the vehicle at the time. Police cordoned off the site of the blast.

Elsewhere, residents said two civilians were killed and three wounded when Ethiopian troops opened fire after gunmen ambushed their convoy.

Yusuf's administration is anxious to exercise its authority over the nation after being confined to the south-central town of Baidoa since the interim government's creation in 2004.

Its Ethiopian allies are to make way for African Union troops, who began arriving in Mogadishu last week. More than 1,000 Ugandans have landed, and they have been attacked at least twice.

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