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US bombs Somali warlord's arms cache after attacks: Artillery and armoured vehicles belonging to General Aideed destroyed in retaliation for weekend assault which killed 26 UN peace-keepers

NAIROBI (Agencies) - The United States, reacting to a bloody weekend attack on UN peace-keepers, bombarded arms dumps belonging to Mogadishu's main warlord yesterday.

United Nations military sources in Mogadishu said a large number of artillery pieces and armoured vehicles belonging to the faction led by General Mohamad Farah Aideed had been destroyed in an attack by US Cobra helicopters firing TOW anti- tank missiles on three dumps north of Mogadishu. There was no word on any casualties and no immediate reaction from Gen Aideed or his aides.

According to the UN, fighting broke out in Mogadishu on Saturday when 'blue-helmets' were inspecting an arms depot controlled by Gen Aideed and UN soldiers came under fire. Twenty-six Pakistani soldiers were killed and 50 wounded. Three American soldiers were reported wounded, none critically. Saturday's ambush was the bloodiest in the history of UN peace-keeping.

The Security Council last night unanimously called for the arrest, prosecution and trial of those who killed the UN peace-keepers. Gen Aideed was not mentioned by name in the Council's resolution but the United Nations has accused him of instigating the shootings. Evidently expecting further confrontations the Council, which went into emergency session yesterday, also asked members to contribute heavy armaments including armoured personnel carriers, tanks and attack helicopters.

These were to provide the UN Operation in Somalia (Unosom) with the capability of confronting and deterring armed attacks against it. Pakistan's ambassador, Jamsheed Marker, said the end of the Cold War had seen 'the emergence of petty warlords and dictators'. Events in Somalia, in Bosnia and elsewhere were 'testimony to the murderous length to which these international thugs are prepared to go in order to maintain their regimes of greed, terror and oppression'. But he said Pakistan would continue contributing peace-keepers in Somalia or elsewhere.

The Italian Defence Ministry reported yesterday that Mogadishu was 'getting back to normal'. Italian troops rescued the Pakistani and US soldiers trapped in the fighting.

Relief workers evacuated from Somalia after the gunbattles arrived in neighbouring Kenya yesterday. A group of 149 non-essential civilian staff, working mainly with the United Nations, told reporters waiting at Nairobi international airport that the Somali capital was quiet but 'very, very tense'. Some relief workers criticised the UN mission for failing to anticipate the violence. 'Something like this was bound to happen,' said James McKindrick of Save the Children Fund. 'The UN handled the whole situation navely. They did not read the signs or notice the creeping tension in the city. Now we do not know what will happen next.'

UN sources said the UN had decided to cut its relief work by half and more staff would be ferried to Kenya over the next few hours. One relief worker said that Somali gunmen loyal to Gen Aideed had vowed to launch more attacks if Pakistani troops returned to the streets of the capital. They said the remainder of Pakistan's 4,750 contingent to the 30-nation multinational force in the country had been confined to barracks.

Speaking at the UN, the US ambassador, Madeleine Albright, said the United States was 'totally outraged' by the attack on the UN forces. 'We consider this incomprehensible and unacceptable,' she said.

According to a UN report given to the Security Council from retired Admiral Jonathan Howe, the civilian head of Unosom, violence broke out in several areas around Mogadishu after UN forces found a weapons cache at a radio transmission centre owned by Gen Aideed's followers. Gen Aideed was told of the inspections 24 hours in advance and did not object. The report said demonstrations and armed attacks appeared to be a 'calculated, premeditated series of major ceasefire violations meant to challenge and intimidate' the UN forces.

'Circumstantially, it would appear (Gen Aideed) was responsible,' Admiral Howe said in Mogadishu. 'The world will not tolerate this, and they will provide us with the resources necessary to stop this.' The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, speaking in Tunis, urged that 'firm action be taken against the perpetrators'.

A US-led multinational force arrived in Mogadishu in December to protect relief supplies intended for victims of Somalia's civil war and famine, which killed an estimated 350,000 people last year. The US handed control of the operation to the UN last month and has withdrawn most of its troops. Pakistan now has the largest force there, with about 4,800 soldiers. The US has the second largest force, with about 4,100 troops.