Somali forces storm UN compound in Mogadishu

Other News Materials 17 October 2007 16:24 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - Somali government forces stormed the United Nations compound in Mogadishu on Wednesday and detained the World Food Programme's (WFP) top representative in the capital.

"About 30 Somali government forces in two military trucks and armed with machine guns have raided the UN headquarters, forcefully entered the offices and arrested Idris Mohamed Osman," said a UN official, who declined to be identified.

"They took him to the presidential palace area and we do not know why they have arrested him," he said. The forces had left the UN compound in southern Mogadishu, he added.

The WFP spokesman in the Kenyan capital confirmed the incident, which came hours after Somali forces battled insurgents in overnight artillery duels that left four civilians dead and at least 34 others wounded.

"Mr. Idris Osman, officer in charge of WFP Mogadishu, was detained this morning and we are urgently taking up the matter with the authorities," spokesman Peter Smerdon told AFP in Nairobi.

Government officials could not be immediately be reached for comment.

Violence in Somalia has forced many humanitarian groups to quit the country, leaving UN agencies and a few others who rely on local staff to run limited operations.

Overnight fighting on Tuesday saw rival sides pound each other with heavy artillery mainly in southern Mogadishu but also touching northern areas.

The clashes broke a week-long lull in Mogadishu battles between Ethiopian-backed government forces and insurgents allied to an Islamist movement ousted from the country's southern and central regions at the beginning of the year.

Since then, insurgents have carried out a string of guerilla attacks, mainly in Mogadishu, targeting government officials, Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers deployed to bolster the government.

The attacks, as well as inter-clan feuds, have displaced hundreds of thousands from the seaside capital, with most sheltering in squalid settlements in neighbouring regions, lacking in basic supplies.

The Horn of Africa nation, home to about 10 million people, has been torn apart by conflict since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre set off a bloody power struggle that has defied numerous internationally-backed peace initiatives.