June 6, 2007 (MOGADISHU) — Hundreds of Ethiopian troops trying to protect this country’s fragile government went house-to-house searching for weapons Wednesday, a daunting task in a city teeming with firearms.
Several people were arrested and accused of being linked to an insurgency blamed for a string of deadly suicide bombs and other attacks. The insurgents vow to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war unless the country becomes an Islamic state.
"These operations are part of the routine security tasks carried out with the help of our friends, the Ethiopians," Deputy Defense Minister Salad Ali Jelle said.
The troops also arrested Abdi Iman, a leading member of Mogadishu’s dominant Hawiye clan, a spokesman for the clan said. There was no word on why Iman was arrested, said the spokesman, Ahmed Diriye.
Later Wednesday, the government ordered three Mogadishu-based radio stations - Shabelle, HornAfrik, Radio of the Holy Quran - to close.
"They have been confusing the public, violating freedom of the press and supporting terrorists," said Information Minister Madobe Nunow Mohamed in a statement.
Ahmed Abdi Salam, the owner of HornAfrik, protested.
"It is unfortunate to shut down this radio station, which is one of the independent radio stations in the country," he said.
All three stations have now gone off air.
In January the government issued a one-day closure order against the three stations.
Ethiopia, the region’s military powerhouse, was vital in helping the Somali government drive out Islamic radicals who ruled much of the country for six months last year. But many in predominantly Muslim Somalia resent having troops from Ethiopia, which has a large Christian population. The countries fought two brutal wars, the last in 1977.
The Ethiopian troops here come under regular insurgent attacks. This week, Ethiopian troops fired at a would-be suicide bomber speeding toward their base, blowing up the car and killing the bomber and a civilian standing nearby.
On Tuesday, an aid worker was wounded and his driver killed in the capital, said Susan Sandars, a regional spokeswoman for Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders. Officials were investigating the circumstances of the shooting. The two weren’t in a marked MSF car, Sandars said.
Somalia descended into chaos in 1991, when warlords ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another. The government was formed in 2004 with the help of the U.N., but it has struggled to assert any real control throughout the country.
Elsewhere, fighting between two clans vying for control of Berhani village in southern Somalia have killed about 35 people since Saturday, clan elders said. Berhani is about 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the port town of Kismayo.