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BBC East Africa correspondent Cathy Jenkins
"The attack has illustrated the problems faced by Somalia's new transitional government"
 real 28k

Julia Spry Leverton, UNICEF
"We have been able to get contact with two of the UNICEF staff"
 real 28k

The BBC's Yusef Garad Omar
gives his assessment of what is behind today's events
 real 28k

Tuesday, 27 March, 2001, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Somali gunmen attack aid workers
Somali gunmen
Mogadishu is controlled by rival armed groups
More than 20 aid workers are reported missing following an attack on a compound belonging to the humanitarian agency, Medecins Sans Frontieres, in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.


All I want to show the international community is that Mogadishu is not a safe place

Warlord spokesman
The provisional government, which took office last year, sent police to the scene and at least eight people are reported to have been killed in the ensuing gunbattle.

The attackers, equipped with armoured vehicles, belong to a faction headed by Musa Sudi Yalahow.

They ambushed a convoy taking officials from the compound to a vaccination centre in Mogadishu.

Ambushed

The fighting reportedly began as the aid workers were attacked and overwhelmed when they tried to leave the compound.

According to eyewitnesses in the neighborhood, militiamen looted computers, office furniture and even the doors and windows of the compound.

The building has also sustained serious damage after anti-tank and heavy machine guns were used in the attack against the compound.

Injured

There were no exact casualty figures available on Tuesday afternoon as the fighting was continuing.


I have ordered a full intervention into the matter by our forces

Somali interior minister
According to hospital sources, it is believed that as many as 30 people, mainly combat militiamen, have suffered gunshot wounds.

The wounded include Somali doctor Abdikarin Assayr of the World Health Organisation. He is being treated in hospital.

It is not yet known about the fate of the international expatriates.

However, Mr Abdulkadir Mohamed Mohamud known as Mr Ababul, a close aid of Muse Sudi Yalahow, told me that he has got with him 9 of the international expatriates in their compound.

"All I want to show the international community is that Mogadishu is not a safe place," said Mr Ababul, "we'll release them soon," he added.

Muse Sudi Yalahow is one of handful Somali warlords opposing to the new transitional government.

These warlords have recently established an Ethiopian-sponsored Somali National Reconciliation Council aimed at challenging the government led by Abdiqasim Salad Hassan.

Government response

The Interior minister of the new government, Mr Dahir Mohamed Sheikh Nur known as Dahir Dayah, whom I also spoke with told me that he has now dispatched the government forces on what he called a rescue mission.

"I have ordered a full intervention into the matter by our forces," he said, "I made up my mind after I came to know that UN people have been attacked."

It seems that the government forces are determined to get rid of Muse Sudi's militiamen out of the area.

By Tuesday afternoon the fighting was gaining momentum as the pro-government forces increased their man and firepower in the battlefield.

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See also:

31 Jan 01 | Africa
Somalia's thoughtful 'warlord'
08 Mar 01 | Africa
Somalia again accuses Ethiopia
10 Feb 01 | Africa
Fake notes batter Somali economy
22 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Somalia
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