Somali Jihad Update. By Guled Mohamed and Sahal Abdulle for Reuters:
MOGADISHU (Reuters) – A wave of pre-dawn mortar attacks pounded Mogadishu and killed at least 16 people on Tuesday in one of the most brutal bombardments since an Islamist movement was forced out of the Somali capital last month.
The hilltop presidential palace, Villa Somalia, and the coastal city’s defense headquarters were among the targets hit in attacks that struck many quarters of Mogadishu and sent hundreds of residents fleeing to outlying towns.
“They showered us with rockets and a mortar also hit the compound. Luckily no one was hurt,” said a government soldier who was in Villa Somalia during the attack but declined to be named for fear of reprisal.
“Our troops and those from our ally Ethiopia were forced to fire heavy artillery,” he told Reuters. “We had to retaliate. These elements are being paid to cause all this destruction.”
A spate of near-daily attacks have challenged the government’s effort to impose security on the city recaptured in December by government forces and their Ethiopian allies from Islamists who controlled it for six months.
The death toll climbed throughout the day on Tuesday as more reports came in from across the chaotic capital, with witnesses and officials putting the total at 16 — all of them civilians.
Deputy Defense Minister Salad Ali Jelle accused Islamist remnants of paying the gunmen in the impoverished city where jobs are scarce and being a hired gun has long been one of the steadiest sources of employment for young men.
“The insurgents are paying $100 a day to whoever fires rockets and mortars at the government and people,” he said.