Somalia

Ethiopian Army Attacks Somalia

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By HAROUN HASSAN Associated Press Writer

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Ethiopian helicopter gunships strafed a rebel stronghold in southwestern Somalia on Friday, killing 160 people, rebels said.

Nineteen Somalis and 141 Ethiopians died in the attacks on three border towns, according to a statement from Islamic Unity, the strongest of the rebel groups seeking autonomy from Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian government declined comment. The rebels' death count could not be verified independently.

Islamic Unity has been fighting since 1992 for the independence of the Ogaden region in eastern Ethiopia, which is inhabited by ethnic Somalis.

At dawn Friday, Ethiopian soldiers fired ground-based missiles and used helicopter gunships to attack the Ethiopian town of Dolo, controlled by Islamic Unity, said Hussein Ali, a rebel spokesman in Nairobi, capital of neighboring Kenya. They also attacked the Somali towns of Beled-Hawo and Luk, about 300 miles northwest of Mogadishu.

A doctor who fled the bombardment said it was the worst attack he'd experienced in the four years he has worked in Somalia.

Dr. Francis Kizito, who works at a hospital in Luk run by the African Medical Research Foundation, fled to an airstrip to be evacuated to Nairobi.

''We saw three helicopters arriving from the north. We ran away and hid in the bush,'' Kizito said. He said he recognized the helicopters as Ethiopian.

Somalia fought wars with Ethiopia over Ogaden in 1961, 1964 and 1977-1978. The Ethiopian government has refused to grant the region autonomy.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press