Somalis' version of peace includes gunfire and death

AN uneasy absence of violence hung over Mogadishu yesterday but it could not be called peace. The United Nations spokesman reported that a mortar round fired towards the airport in the early hours of yesterday morning killed a woman and injured 10 people and a Greek sergeant was killed by gunmen while on patrol.

In the early afternoon an American soldier in a Jeep fired warning shots over the heads of a crowd when his vehicle was held up in traffic near a roundabout in south Mogadishu. By the standard of recent months it was calm but in the new atmosphere that is supposed to have been created by the release of the American pilot, Michael Durant, and the Nigerian soldier, by General Aideed on Thursday, these were disquieting incidents. Strapped to a stretcher and clutching his red beret, Mr Durant was airlifted by helicopter on his way to a military hospital in Germany.

There is still deep resentment against the United States over the battle on 3 October in which more than 500 Somalis were killed or injured and 18 Americans and one Malaysian solider was killed.

In the heart of Aideed territory in south Mogadishu it is dangerous for American civilians to venture and journalists travelling there are asked if they are American.

When one asked what would happen if he was American, the reply was: 'You would be killed.' There has been no response from the UN special representative, Admiral Jonathan Howe, to General Aideed's release of the prisoners. The UN will neither reciprocate over the ceasefire called by General Aideed, nor release any of the 69 Somalis, including four of his top advisers, who are detained by the UN. A UN spokesman said that it continued routine military activity and that UN resolution 837, which mandates UN forces to arrest those responsible for the killings of 24 Pakistani troops on 5 June, still stands.

The hunt for General Aideed has clearly been halted, but whether the UN forces would try to snatch him if he stood up at a rally is a question UN military officials were reluctant to answer yesterday.

Admiral Howe flew to Djibouti yesterday to meet Boutros Boutros- Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, and other senior UN officials. The UN spokesman would not disclose the nature of the talks but there is private speculation among UN officials here that Admiral Howe will advise the UN Secretary-General to cancel his plan to visit Somalia.

Mr Boutros-Ghali remains one of General Aideed's hate figures.

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