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Somali fighting kills 24

Other News Materials 16 May 2010 23:40 (UTC +04:00)
Heavy shelling pounded Somalia's capital on Sunday, killing at least 24 people and wounding dozens, as parliament's speaker said lawmakers had passed a vote of no confidence in government.
Somali fighting kills 24

Heavy shelling pounded Somalia's capital on Sunday, killing at least 24 people and wounding dozens, as parliament's speaker said lawmakers had passed a vote of no confidence in government.

Speaker Sheikh Aden Madobe said he had called on the country's president to form a new government. A member of the parliament secretariat who did not want to be identified confirmed the vote's outcome.

"280 voted against the government, 30 in favor and eight remained silent. Therefore we will request President Sheikh Sharif to form a government urgently," Madobe told Reuters by telephone.

But events remained unclear, as some parliamentarians contradicted the speaker and said the vote never took place, and they would in fact be voting shortly on Madobe's own position.

"We did not give him the opportunity to hold the vote of no confidence. Every MP was shouting at him, telling him 'you are not the speaker'," lawmaker Sheikh Ahmed Yusuf told Reuters.

Some analysts said the no confidence vote, if real, was unlikely to be taken seriously by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed whose administration is fighting a war against Islamic militants and exerts very little central power.

Parliamentary business has been paralyzed this year, with many legislators living in Kenya, Europe and America because of security fears. The chamber has also been split by a bitter feud over the term of the chamber's speaker and his competence.

Some experts said any vote of no confidence vote could be a ploy by Madobe and his backers to help him cling to his position. The speaker is among the most powerful political figures in a country plagued by violence for nearly two decades.

"I think that figure is cooked," said Rashid Abdi, Somalia Analyst the International Crisis Group.

"I think you could expect a statement from Sharif saying he doesn't recognize the validity of that vote and the government continues," Abdi said.

Parliament met for the first time since December as al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters fired mortars at the parliament building, triggering a return of shellfire from African Union peacekeepers.

A rights group put the death toll from the fighting at 24 people as heavy exchanges of mortar-fire continued after the legislators meeting ended.

"The death toll has now hit 24 and it may rise as the terrible shelling still continues. Mogadishu's hospitals are full of wounded people. So far we have counted at least 58 injured people," Ali Yahin Gedi, vice chairman of the Elman group said.

He said hundreds of families were fleeing with the belongings they could carry from at least five of the capital's districts.

Analysts say President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has failed to deliver on the hope he would be able to unite some of the country's warring factions and establish a greater degree of central power following his election in January 2009.

Many Somalis have grown increasingly disillusioned at the politicians' failure to curb the fighting and tackle corruption.

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