Pressure grows for UN to quit Somalia

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SOMALI gunmen added to the momentum of a move to pull United Nations troops out of Somalia by killing seven and wounding six Indian UN peace- keepers yesterday.

In what a UN spokesman called an 'unprovoked and carefully co- ordinated attack' with mortars, anti-aircraft guns and automatic rifles, the Somalis ambushed the Indian patrol and engaged in a battle lasting several hours. The attack was at Burlego, 70 miles from Mogadishu. Somali casualties are not known. Nor is an immediate motive. The attack happened in no man's land between two faction areas but there has been a series of attacks on the UN in areas controlled by General Mohammed Farah Aideed, who rules southern Mogadishu and, with his allies, much of southern and central Somalia. Ten days ago a Zimba bwean contingent was attacked and one soldier was killed and the others stripped of possessions and weapons.

A long-time opponent of the UN presence in Somalia, General Aideed has been talking of forming a 'broad-based government' for Somalia including all clan leaders. Despite his words, the UN and other observers see no political progress to mend the inter-clan rifts which have torn Somalia to pieces.

Last week Boutros Boutros- Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, recommended that the UN force, now over 18,000 strong, be reduced to 15,000. He also hinted that it was becoming more and more difficult for countries contributing peace-keeping troops to justify their presence. Pakisatn, which has the biggest force in Somalia, has said it will not replace contingents withdrawn at the end of their assignment. The United States has argued in the Security Council that the dollars 1bn-a-year operation in Somalia should be closed down unless there is visible political improvement by the end of September.

Another boost will be given to those suggesting UN withdrawal from Somalia by the expulsion on Sunday of the UN from Somaliland, the self-proclaimed republic in northern Somalia. Accusing it of interfering in the republic's internal affairs, a statement issued in Hargeisa said: 'The presence of Unosom (the United Nations Operation in Somalia) is inimical to the security, the stability and the national solidarity of the Republic of Somaliland.' It said the UN representatives had already left its territory.