AMISOM Mortars Claim More Lives
April 3, 2010 1 Comment
While the rest of the world welcomed April with a feeling of unrestrained joviality, it was a sombre mood here in Mogadishu. For many of the weary Mogadishans living in these dismal blocks of concrete and tin-roofed houses, their mornings began with – well, the usual – death. No convivial atmosphere greeted them and no cheerful jokes made the rounds in the streets, for as March ended and the residents recoiled from the round of mortars that had crippled them, another greeted them.
Mogadishu knows no April fools day. Everything is real here.
Yesterday evening at around 5 PM, just as the workers returned home from a hard day’s work and reached their houses to spend some time with their families, the menacing sound of mortars began. AMISOM forces dished out their daily allotment of mortars to the unsuspecting civilians.
When a battle, between Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam on one side and the TFG forces on the other, raged on for a few hours in the once upper-class district of Hodan, some 500 metres away from the Ugandan base and now one of the many fronts in Mogadishu, AMISOM’s reply was unmistakably loud and clear.
Just as the TFG forces hurdled past their own defences and sought protection in the fortified AMISOM quarters, the ‘peacekeepers’ indiscriminately fired countless number of mortars in the heavily populated districts of Mogadishu. 20 people are now confirmed dead and more than 30 injured – some critically. Of the injured 26 were children! This morning, Mohamed, a father of some of the injured children in Madina Hospital, said that 6 of the children had died.
‘There were kids everywhere; I counted up to 26, including my two sons. Some of them had shrapnel wounds in their stomach, head and legs and they all came here full of blood. See that young girl there on the bed; the doctor says she will have to be amputated to save her life. It is very sad. The youngest is 4 years old.’
The puzzling thing, however, is not AMISOM’s decision to rain down mortars on the population at large, since this has now become a daily occurrence; rather it is the locations they’ve decided to bomb that worries the residents.
Though the battle took place in Hodan, mortars were falling in Boondheere district – some 10 kilometres away, as well as Baar Ubax and Black Sea! Could this be simply imprecision on the part of the government or perhaps inaccuracy in the calibration of the equipments used? Or was it a war tactic that we haven’t yet fully understood?
Whatever reasons the TFG gives, though mostly none is given, to assuage the angry public, it is bound to fall on deaf ears. A local radio journalist, who wished to remain anonymous, told me why:
‘In the eyes of the people, this is not merely a case of miscalculation, but one of systematic bombardment of the residents of Mogadishu. They [TFG] know what they are doing and they are doing it on purpose. No one believes what they say because their words and actions are incongruous. The people are tired of hearing government officials and their cliché of lies.
The Somali public is furious and is screaming to the government, ‘you know where Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam are, so why on earth are you bombing the Bakara or Boondheere? Not a single shot was fired from these areas so why are you bombing our women and children?’
But the government is not willing to listen. So before you know it everybody picks up arms and joins the fight against the government.’
Perhaps there is a method to this madness. Perhaps it is one of the many follies in the formalities of their war on terrorism, or against Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam i.e. terrorise the public in order to trounce the terrorists. Perhaps they believe that by shelling civilian areas, the public would eventually point the finger of blame at the Islamists and side with the perpetrators of the shelling.
An absurd line of reasoning as it is equally imprudent; for the more they bombard the innocent civilians with mortars, the more they distance them away! It is a higgledy-piggledy approach to politics, if you would.
Now, as the grief-stricken Mogadishans bury their martyred children, they also ponder on the possibilities of evacuating their homes and living in makeshift camps outside the city. They knew that they would have had to burry their relatives one day or the other, they just didn’t realise it would be this soon.
Here in Mogadishu, though, it is the dead who have found respite from the daily barrage of mortars; the rest emerge from the rubble now only to be buried again by another mortar. And whenever a wound heals, shrapnel reopens it.
But Mogadishans are resilient and what drives the residents here, despite their conditions, is their faith. When asked how they escaped unhurt, after a mortar had landed in their house yesterday, a mother of seven replied with firm conviction:
‘We just rely on Allah and try to hide under concrete blocks. Whenever we hear the sounds of shelling I tell my seven children to read the Qur’an and we wait until it is over.’