MOGADISHU, Aug 22 (Reuters) – Somalia’s fledgling interim government has committed all its resources to restoring stability in the capital Mogadishu during major reconciliation talks threatened by Islamist insurgents, the mayor said.
Mohamed Omar Habeeb "Dheere" told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday that security had improved in a city mostly in chaos since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.
"Hundreds used to die," the former warlord said. "Only a few people die these days from pistol and grenade attacks. We hope to end these minor attacks as soon as possible.
"Most of our resources go to security in order to return peace to the city. We expect to deploy more police officers in the streets."
But Mogadishu remains one of the world’s most dangerous cities, with Islamist rebels and clan militia fighting a guerrilla war against government troops and their Ethiopian military allies.
In the latest violence, residents said seven civilians were killed in separate attacks across the capital on Tuesday. Two of them died in a landmine blast at one of the squalid camps on the outskirts of the city populated by displaced families.
Dheere said his forces had reliable intelligence that "terrorists" were hiding in those camps.
"We will go after them wherever they are for the sake of security of the region," he said.
The insurgency is blamed on remnants of a hardline Islamic Courts movement chased out of Mogadishu by a joint Somali and Ethiopian force at the start of the year.
The United Nations-backed interim government is hosting a major reconciliation conference aimed at kick-starting a peace process. But the talks are being boycotted by Islamist leaders.
And late on Saturday the meeting was marred by the killing of a top clan leader and key player in the bid to unite Somalia’s disparate factions that triggered fears of reprisals.
On Monday, a landmine blast injured four civilians near the venue of the meeting, then insurgents attacked a police patrol in the north of the city, wounding at least seven people.