Somalia: Mogadishu mayor says city's guns must be handed over

By Ibrahim Mohamed

MOGADISHU, May 4 (Reuters) - The former warlord named the mayor of Mogadishu opened his term on Friday vowing to take all guns away from private citizens -- a huge task in a city synonymous with military weapons.

Mohamed Dheere was named mayor of the chaotic capital last week as part of a government push to keep relative peace in a city ravaged by fighting with insurgents that has sent 365,000 of its inhabitants fleeing since February.

"The first thing I will do is to improve security. No weapons will be allowed to roam freely in the city and no guns will be fired. Government troops will be patrolling the city," Dheere said at his inauguration.

Interior Minister Mohamed Mahamud Guled said disarmament was moving forward, even though many view it as a quixotic task in a nation flush with weapons.

"There are so many places that so far have been searched and so many weapons unearthed. There is no exact figure or statistics on all the weapons that have so far been found," Guled told Reuters by telephone.

Government soldiers have been patrolling the city with their better equipped and trained Ethiopian allies since they ejected a militant Islamist movement from Mogadishu last December.

Islamists, along with disgruntled clan gunmen, nationalists opposed to Ethiopia and criminals, have carried out guerrilla attack against the government and its allies since then.

That culminated with two rounds of fighting since late March that killed roughly 1,400 people.

Ethiopia wants its soldiers out as 1,600 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda tighten their control over the capital, one of the world's most dangerous cities.

Opposition parliamentarians in Ethiopia on Friday urged the immediate withdrawal of their troops from Somalia, but the government rejected the call.

About 150 businesses owned by Mogadishu's dominant Hawiye clan, some of whom backed the Islamists and who distrust a government they see favouring the rival Darod clan, have pledged to turn over their weapons.

Some handed them in on Thursday, but the pace was slow and their arsenals are a fraction of the city's weapons, officials said.

President Abdullahi Yusuf's government has vowed to confiscate all weapons in private hands, and an offensive to disarm rebels and Hawiye sympathisers sparked four days of fighting in late March and early April.

(Additional reporting by Guled Mohamed in Mogadishu and Tsegaye Tadesse in Ethiopia)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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