UN troops hunt Somali warlord: Arrest order goes out after 60 die in storming of Aideed's stronghold

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MOGADISHU - The United Nations yesterday attacked and seized the stronghold of the Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed and ordered his arrest during a day of fierce clashes which hospitals say killed more than 60 people.

A UN official said five UN peace-keepers had been killed and 44 wounded, but the whereabouts of General Aideed, who fled before the ground troops arrived, remained a mystery. The casualties included four Moroccan and one Pakistani soldier killed, and the wounded were

37 Moroccans, three Frenchmen, three Pakistanis and one American.

Jonathan Howe, the UN special envoy to Somalia, told reporters he had ordered the general's arrest for his suspected role in the murder of 23 Pakistani peace-keepers two weeks ago.

'I have concluded it is time for General Mohamed Farah Aideed to be detained,' he said. 'He will be given all the protection of the law. He will be treated properly, carefully.'

The arrest order is unprecedented in UN history, and raises questions about a possible trial in a country where law and order has collapsed. Mr Howe failed to specify what kind of court would be involved. In New York, a UN spokesman said the general would be charged with 'crimes against humanity', 'conspiracy to conduct premeditated attacks against UN forces', and 'endangering civilians and UN personnel through organised incitement of violence'.

'Matters relating to subsequent prosecution, trial and punishment' are being studied at UN headquarters, the spokesman added.

Yesterday's operation began with an intense pre-dawn aerial bombardment by US AC-130 'Spectre' gunships.

Italian and US ground troops in tanks and armoured personnel carriers, supported by US attack helicopters and French, Pakistani and Moroccan peace- keepers, sealed off General Aideed's ramshackle mansion, which had been hit by a missile. Aideed loyalists responded with heavy sniper fire.

Hospitals put the death toll at more than 60 with at least 100 wounded in some of the fiercest fighting in Somalia since US troops landed in December to prevent clan gunmen hijacking famine relief supplies.

The French charity Action Internationale Contre la Faim reported that two stray helicopter missiles slammed into its compound, killing one Somali and badly injuring another.

Heavy gun battles erupted immediately as General Aideed's gunmen hit back. Members of his Habir Gedir clan put up makeshift barricades around his home and set old tyres ablaze.

They shouted 'Down with America' and waved their fists at foreign troops. Crowds elsewhere in the city yelled at foreigners: 'We will kill you.'

Aideed the hero, page 13

Conor Cruise O'Brien, page 22