US cracks down on Somali gunmen

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The Independent Online
MOGADISHU (Reuter) - United States forces began a crackdown on gunmen in the Somali capital yesterday, seizing weapons, missiles and battlewagons 48 hours before a visit by President George Bush.

US Air Force planes dropped 100,000 leaflets on Mogadishu warning residents that machine- guns, mortars, recoilless rifles and 'technical' battlewagons with or without their guns mounted would not be tolerated on the streets. 'Anyone aiming or pointing weapons directly at CTF (Combined Task Force) forces will be shot', the leaflet said.

A spokesman, Colonel Fred Peck, said US troops seized a large cache of arms and missiles in north-east Mogadishu and a smaller arsenal from a six-storey building opposite the US embassy compound, which Mr Bush will visit tomorrow. He said marines took over the building. 'We would not feel confident about the President visiting the (embassy) compound without occupying that building because we have been sniped at from that location on many occasions.

'I doubt that any American president has ever visited a nation in such turmoil and in such a state of anarchy,' he said.

Mr Bush is visiting Somalia mainly to meet US troops for New Year in what will almost certainly be his swan-song as Commander- in-Chief of the US military.

Diplomatic sources confirmed a report in the New York Times that a clan in the southern port of Kismayu massacred more than 100 intellectuals from another clan on the eve of the US marine landing in Mogadishu. The newspaper said the victims included religious leaders, business executives and other prominent people from the Harti clan hounded from their homes and killed by men loyal to the Ogadeni clan warlord, Colonel Omar Jess. Diplomats said the killings were believed to have taken place over three nights. An aid worker speaks of 'targeted clan killings'.