Aideed force denies killings

Click to follow
NAIROBI (Reuter) - The Somali faction headed by the fugitive warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed yesterday denied responsibility for an ambush in which four US peace- keepers from the United Nations force were killed.

'The Somali National Alliance (SNA) was not responsible for the mine that destroyed the American vehicle yesterday and killed four of their soldiers in the capital Mogadishu,' an SNA statement issued in Nairobi said.

UN officials said six vehicles were travelling to Mogadishu airport when one hit a land mine on a busy road in the Medina area. A fierce gunbattle followed. Egyptian and Pakistani troops and US helicopters raced to help but the gunmen melted away into into back lanes. No Somali casualties were reported.

General Aideed has had a price on his head since 24 Pakistani peace- keepers were killed in an ambush early in June. A total of 39 peace- keepers have been killed in the past two months.

With the killing of the four US soldiers and President Bill Clinton's vow to respond, Washington is being drawn deeper into the Somalia quagmire. US congressmen said this would prompt new and wider debate over US and UN roles in peace- keeping. Mike McCurry, a State Department spokesman, agreed the deaths would make the United States reassess its role in Somalia.

But he insisted Washington was determined to continue its efforts to bring stability to the country. He described the mission as an important precedent for the future, and stressed the need for 'getting it right'. Retaliation seemed certain after President Clinton pledged that: 'We will do everything possible to find out who was responsible and take appropriate action.'