Somalia: Ethiopian troops distribute food for first time

Published on Thursday 15th May 2008

Somalia: Ethiopian soldiers in Somalia's volatile capital for the first time distributed food aid to families displaced by the ongoing violence.


Hundreds of people gathered around the ex-Ministry of Defense building Wednesday, which is located in southern Mogadishu, where members of the Ethiopian army handed out bags of corn.

Mogadishu city officials, including two deputy mayors, offered brief speeches praising the Ethiopian army's distribution of food to needy families.

Citing today's food aid, Deputy Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed Dhagahtur told the crowd that Ethiopian troops came to Somalia to "help the people."

There were reports of some looting, but the Ethiopian soldiers looked on with snipers watching everyone from the towers, according to witnesses.

Some of the beneficiaries of the food aid told Radio Garowe that they "welcome" the change, while indicating that Mogadishu residents are used to only barrages of gunfire and artillery from the Ethiopian army.

In other sections of Mogadishu, guerrilla attacks targeting Somali and Ethiopian security forces continued, leading to the death of at least on Ethiopian soldier.

In Yaaqshiid district, in the northern part of the capital, an Ethiopian army convoy hit a roadside bomb, killing the soldier instantly and wounding another soldier, witnesses told Radio Garowe.

Two civilians were wounded in subsequent gunfire, as the surviving soldiers fired randomly in the moment of panic.

In west Mogadishu, suspected insurgents attacked one soldier walking alone. The lone soldier escaped the gunfire unharmed, but three civilian bystanders were wounded in the crossfire.

In an unrelated incident, a government soldier opened fire on a vehicle with three passengers inside, fatally shooting the front seat passenger and wounding the driver, a relative said.

The deadly shooting occurred on the road leaving Mogadishu and heading to the town of Afgoye, 30km south.

The dead passenger was identified as Abdirisak Hussein Ali, who had left the home of his cousin moments before the soldier standing guard at a government checkpoint ordered the car to stop.

"He [soldier] signaled with his hand for the car to stop, but then started shooting," a relative who witnessed the shooting told Radio Garowe.

Somali rebels have waged a relentless wave of guerrilla attacks for the past 15 months, mainly targeting Somali and Ethiopian government forces.

But thousands of civilians have been killed in the crossfire or by the government's retaliatory strikes against the insurgents.

More than half of Mogadishu's population has been displaced since early 2007, according to the United Nations.