Somalia launches security operation in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU, Jun 5, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Somali security forces backed by Ethiopian troops launched a security operation in the capital city of Mogadishu on Tuesday after several attacks against government officials and security forces in the past days.

"The Ethiopian soldiers and Somali police came to our neighborhood and started entering houses, saying they are searching for suspects and weapons," Faisal Ige, a resident of Huriwaa neighborhood, told Xinhua.

These operations came as the security situation in the Somali capital deteriorates and two days after the assassination attempt against Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi, with a rise in killing of both civilians and security forces in the city.

Residents in K4 area in the south of Mogadishu said some people have been detained by Somali police and Ethiopian soldiers and were taken to an unknown location.

Police forces can be seen stationed in some of the main street junctions in Mogadishu, searching vehicles and people.

In Huriwaa and Towfiq neighborhoods where the fiercest fighting took place in March and April, the troops blocked civilian transport going in and out of these neighborhoods and residents had to move on foot.

"I was forced to go on foot to Bakara market which is five kilometers away from where I live", said Aisha Duqo, a resident of Huriwaa neighborhood,where the Somali government officials and Ethiopian military in Mogadishu consider as the stronghold of Islamic insurgents.

Deputy Defense Minister Salad Ali Jelle told a local radio that the Somali military has withdrawn from the capital, saying that they will be in military camps outside the capital as the major fighting with insurgents has ended.

There has been an upsurge of violence in the seaside city of two million which government officials blame on Islamic insurgents.

Somali has been without a central authority since the overthrow of the late ruler Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991 when the country plunged into chaos and lawlessness. The current transitional federal Somali government was formed in 2004 as a result of the national reconciliation conference held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.