Top Somali warlord is given hero's funeral Karadzic henchmen 'cleanse' poll lists

David Orr reports on the death of the commander who humiliated the West
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The Independent Online
Mogadishu - "God will destroy Washington," he declared defiantly in 1993, as the United States led a series of destructive air-strikes on the capital and sent in their most highly trained soldiers to find him.

Brigadier General Mohamed Farah Aideed, Somalia's most notorious warlord, survived - but even he could not escape death for ever. His body was laid to rest in the capital, Mogadishu, yesterday.

General Aideed, who last year declared himself President of Somalia, will be remembered by the West as the man who humiliated the United Nations - which came to bring peace and humanitarian aid, and left last year with little or nothing accomplished. Even the US, whose troops entered the country under the cover of tremendous fire power, was forced to admit defeat.

His faction's radio station announced that the 62-year-old leader had suffered a heart attack; but sources here say that he died of gunshot wounds received last week in fighting for control of the capital. Asked who was responsible for his death, an old man quoted a Somali proverb: "Victory is always claimed by many people".

General Aideed is reported to have been wounded by fighters loyal to Ali Mahdi Mohamed, his bitter rival for overall power.

The coffin, draped with the Somali flag, was carried to the cemetery atop a Toyota Landcruiser, and the national anthem was played as his remains were lowered into the ground.

The streets of Mogadishu were unnaturally calm last night as Muslim prayers were chanted in the mosques.

General Aideed, an abstemious man who neither drank nor smoked, commanded a fanatical following amongst his followers. He was widely feared for his explosive temper and domineering manner, and his interviews with the foreign media often became ranting monologues.

There was international outrage when General Aideed's supporters dragged the corpses of lynched American soldiers through the city's streets.

This time three years ago, the United States had a $25,000 reward out for General Aideed's capture "dead or alive". But the general evaded capture, and was feted as a hero and saviour in southern Mogadishu.

Between the UN's arrival late in 1992 and its withdrawal last year, some 100 Blue Helmets and scores of American troops were killed in fighting in and around Mogadishu.

General Aideed, branded as the UN's most wanted man, was held responsible for most of these killings.

In much of the rest of the country he was vilified as an evil man who would stop at nothing for power.

But he was hailed as a hero by his supporters yesterday as his body was taken from his house to a mosque and then on to the cemetery in the southern part of the city which he controlled.

Among the mourners, who numbered more than 1,000 people, were many women and children who cried openly.

"We will follow his policies", said a porter standing by the graveside. "He was a great man. His death will not have been in vain."

Obituary, page 11