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Riots Break Out In Somali Town Of Baidoa After Cabinet Minister Fatally Shot
BAIDOA, Somalia, July 28, 2006 – Hundreds of people rioted Friday near the headquarters of Somalia's virtually powerless government, after a cabinet minister was fatally shot as he walked from morning prayers.
People began streaming into the streets and setting fires just hours after Abdallah Isaaq Deerow, Somalia's minister for constitutional and federal affairs, was shot in the chest.
A 35-year-old man was arrested, Baidoa Police Chief Aadin Biid, said. He had no other details.
The shooting was the second this week of a lawmaker in Baidoa, the only town controlled by the fragile administration. Mohammed Ibrahim Mohammed, chairman of the parliamentary committee for constitutional affairs, was wounded Wednesday night.
It was not clear whether the shootings were connected or if they had anything to do with politics in this chaotic Horn of Africa nation, which is emerging from 15 years of anarchy.
"We condemn this wicked action, and the government will chase the murderers and treat them with an iron hand," the government's information minister, Mohamed Abdi Hayir, said Friday.
The government, which has no military, has watched helplessly in recent months as Islamic militants took over much of the country. On Thursday, 18 top ministers resigned, saying the government has failed to bring peace. Deerow was not among those who resigned.
The lawmakers also said they were opposed to troops from neighboring Ethiopia , who have been spotted in Baidoa to protect the government against the Islamic militants. Ethiopia is Somalia's traditional enemy, although Somali President Abdillahi Yusuf has asked for its support - a decision that enraged many Somalis.
"We will launch a holy war against the aggressors," said Abdirisaq Hassan, among 5,000 people who turned out Friday for an anti-Ethiopia demonstration in the capital, Mogadishu. "We shall go to heaven if we die and they will suffer in hell if they die."
Also Friday, Islamic fighters closed roads around the capital's airport and chased away onlookers while a plane was unloaded. A similar aircraft delivered goods Wednesday, and officials from the government accused Eritrea of sending arms to the militants on that flight.
Islamic officials and Eritrea both denied the accusation. Eritrea and Ethiopia have been accused of supporting opposite sides in the Somali standoff, using the country as a battleground in their own rivalry.
"We have seen that the government cannot carry out national reconciliation and development," said the letter of resignation issued by 18 key ministers in the 102-member cabinet on Thursday.
On Friday, Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Gedi accused the former cabinet ministers of trying to bring down his government and vowed to defend himself against the no-confidence vote.
"The resignation of these ministers will not effect the government," he said. "All of their accusations are baseless."
The Islamic militants' increasing power has prompted grave concerns in the United States, which accuses the group of harboring al-Qaida leaders responsible for deadly 1998 bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Islamic group's imposition of strict religious courts also has raised fears of an emerging Taliban-style regime.