Fighting kills at least 17 in Somali pirate port
MOGADISHU – Gun battles between clan militiamen killed at least 17 people and wounded 30 on Saturday at a pirate stronghold on the coast of Somalia, witnesses said.
Local man Farah Aden told Reuters by satellite telephone that the fighting began overnight and became heavier in the morning, forcing most of Haradheere’s residents to flee.
“The two clans are fighting over land and a girl who was raped in the forest. Unfortunately, the battles spread into town … Fighting is going on fiercely,” he said.
Somalia has been torn by civil war since 1991, and the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed controls only small pockets of the capital Mogadishu.
Pirates who attack vessels using the strategic shipping lanes linking Europe to Asia through the Gulf of Aden operate from several remote coastal bases including Haradheere.
One pirate in the lawless central Somali port said he was worried the bloodshed would hurt the sea gangs’ profits.
“We are afraid our business will stop if the clashes continue,” the pirate, who gave his name as Mohamed, told Reuters by satellite phone from Haradheere.
“We are all members of these two clans, and we are worried that this fight might end up being taken out onto the ocean.”
Violence in Somalia has killed more than 18,000 people since the start of 2007 and uprooted another 1 million. Western security agencies say the failed Horn of Africa state is a haven for extremists plotting attacks in the region and beyond.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Ahmed in neighbouring Kenya and pledged strong support and more aid for his fragile administration.
Ahmed’s security forces are battling hardline Islamist rebels including the al Shabaab group, which Washington accuses of being al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the prominent leader of another insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, issued a statement in Mogadishu on Saturday condemning U.S. policy and vowing to fight on.
“We thought the Obama administration would positively change Somalia’s politics, but it has worsened,” Aweys said.
“America wants to colonise all the world’s governments, particularly Muslim countries, to loot their natural resources. We shall continue fighting until we reach our goal.”