|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
Top clan elder killed as Somalia strife deepens
By Mustafa Haji Abdinur
Mogadishu, 19 August 2007 - A top clan elder from embattled Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi's clan was gunned down in Mogadishu overnight Saturday, dealing a blow to a laborious month-old peace initiative.
The killing -- one of the most high-profile assassinations in years in the capital -- came a day after clashes between sub-clans fighting for access to resources in central Somalia left at least 20 dead.
"May Allah bless him, Moalim Harun Moalim Yusuf was one of the prominent Somali clan chiefs and he was killed by two men armed with pistols as he returned from evening prayers," a spokesman from gedi's office said.
"He died instantly," Abdullahi Mohieddin Odka told AFP.
It was not clear who was behind the assassination and whether or not it was linked to the rising insurgent violence since August 10.
Moalim Harun, 63, was one of the senior participants at the launch last month of an ongoing government-sponsored clan reconciliation conference in Mogadishu.
While the process has been supported by the international community, it has been boycotted by the government's main Islamist foes and a large part of the capital's dominant Hawiye clan.
Some observers have argued that only more inclusive talks addressing the contentious issue of the Ethiopian presence in Somalia stand any chance of yielding a significant breakthrough.
"We wonder why they killed a veteran negotiator who was leading the peace process, we strongly condemn the attackers and hope they will be brought to justice," conference chairman Ali Mahdi Mohamed told delegates Sunday.
"I don't care who committed this heinous crime but I can say this is a black day for the supporters of peace because he a dedicated negotiator despite his old age," senior Hawiye representative Haji Abdi Iman added.
Other Somali elders admitted the assassination was a blow to the ailing peace initiative.
"The killing of Moalim Harun is a major setback for the peace process in the country, and I think this was the most serious step taken by these violent people," said Salad Adan Barwako.
"He was a negotiator who stood for the whole of Somalia, not for one clan only, and he wanted to achieve peace," said Abdulkadir Adan, another elder and a close friend of the victim.
"I don't think those who killed him will benefit from his death," he added.
The seaside capital -- where most of the violence had concentrated in recent months -- had experienced a short period of relative respite following a tough security crackdown coinciding with the July 15 opening of the talks.
An Islamist militia that had briefly taken control of large parts of the country in 2006 were defeated by Ethiopian troops that came to rescue of the interim Somali government's outgunned forces.
Since the alliance wrested back final control of Mogadishu in April, the Islamist-led insurgency has reverted to guerrilla-style tactics, launching daily hit-and-run attacks against government targets.
Central Somalia was also the scene of the violent clashes Saturday between rival sub-clans feuding over access to pasture land and water.
The pitched battles between Murursade and Hawadle sub-clans, occurred in the Hiraan region.
"More than 20 people were killed in Gorof and Bogo villages," elder Abdullahi Haji told AFP.
Although it was not clear if the fatalities were civilians or fighters, Haji warned of reprisals if elders failed to broker a truce.
Several elders confirmed the casualty toll from the latest fighting that appeared not to be linked to the anti-government rebellion in Mogadishu.
Witnesses said several wounded were treated in hospitals in Hiraan's capital Beledweyn, northwest of Mogadishu, near the Ethiopian border.
The feuding sub-clans, belonging the Somali dominant Hawiye clan, clashed earlier in August, killing at least seven people.
Bitter clan grudges and endless squabbling over water and pasture boil over during the dry season when pastoralists scramble for resources.