dominant clan in Somalia’s chaotic capital, Mogadishu, on Monday freed 18
prisoners captured during fighting with interim government forces.
Elders of the Hawiye clan have been in talks with the government and its Ethiopian
military allies since about 20 people died last week in the city’s worst bloodshed
since a war over the New Year to oust militant Islamists.
“We asked the government to come collect these prisoners, but nobody
showed up so we released them without conditions,” Hawiye leader and
spokesperson Ahmed Diriye Diriye told Reuters.
The release boosted a four-day-old ceasefire.
The government, led by President Abdullahi Yusuf from the Darod clan, is facing
an insurgency from ever-bolder Islamists and disgruntled, heavily armed clan
Last week’s upsurge in violence, which saw some dead troops dragged through
the streets and burnt, came after the interim administration launched a campaign
to disarm parts of Mogadishu.
Diriye said the government soldiers’ bodies were abused by people angry at
being caught in the near-daily crossfire.
“We heard there were some bodies being dragged in the streets by some
people who were upset about being shelled,” he said. “I give my
condolences to the families of those soldiers.”
There were no new reports of violence on Monday.
Pacifying the capital is a huge task for the government, which ended a six-month
Islamist rule of the city with the help of Ethiopia’s military in a two-week
ground and air offensive.
At the weekend, Hawiye leaders also met officials from an African Union peacekeeping
force in Somalia, which currently consists of just 1 200 Ugandan soldiers.
Yusuf, whose government is the 14th attempt to set up central rule since 1991,
has called for national reconciliation talks to place in Mogadishu on April
16, but the conference will depend on security in the city.