Missiles Rock Mogadishu
April 12, 2010 6 Comments
Mogadishu is under attack. Dozens of BM rockets, as they are called here, fired by the AMISOM forces have crippled the busy Bakara market and brought the entire business hub of Mogadishu into a complete standstill. Just as worshipers exited the mosques, after noon prayer today, the rockets fell. Hundreds of people in the market scrambled for safety, some hiding under concrete buildings and others rushing back into the mosques.
I had just left my apartment and decided to meet a journalist, Keyse, for lunch when the shelling began. Squeezing through the riotous crowds of shoppers, hawkers, tea ladies and past the tightly crammed stalls whose fetid odour assaulted our senses, medicine shops and juice bars, we made our way to Tawakkal Restaurant, a fairly clean and quiet place compared to the other noisy eating places in Bakara. But just before we could enter the restaurant, the sound of a rocket fired caught Keyse’s attention. Being still fairly new to this war-torn city, my senses were not quite alert yet, though I am now slowly becoming attuned to the music of mortars.
The frenzied look on my friend’s face explained it all. Without a second spared, we dashed into the nearest building, hurdling past donkey carts, screaming kids and stumbling women. Though it becomes the natural instinct to help the elderly and the weak when in need, but during times like these, and in Mogadishu’s mayhem, it is every man for his own. Several rockets, whose whistling noise was enough to send fear running through your veins, fell a few streets away from where we were.
The rockets left a devastating trail of destruction. An hour of panic and confusion had wiped out the smiles from the jovial shoppers’ faces and brought the atmosphere of safety to an abrupt end.
When the whistles of the rockets had faded, we exited the building, along with a group of angst-ridden residents and shoppers, and made our way back to my apartment. I wasn’t ready for what I’d encountered. Just at the entrance of the apartment, the bloody entrails of a young woman lay scattered in front of a tin-roofed shop. Her face looked unusually tranquil, as if she had finally received that long-awaited moment of peace; her dark hair rested unruffled on the soft soil, painted with blood; her bulging eyes stared into the open space and a trickle of blood oozed from her mouth. Shuddering with twinges of pain, I watched painfully as the lifeless body of a beautiful young woman was being covered with a shroud.
I was completely gripped by the horrific scene, when the screams of some children pulled my attention, not far away from the young woman. Instinctively, I made my way to the location of the noise and saw four children, of almost equal age, bleeding and crying. Large pieces of shrapnel had punctured their frail bodies. The youngest, a blood-stained 4-year-old, glued her pleading eyes at me as I knelt down beside her. Lifting her hand with effort, she stretched a delicate finger which I held. Her legs were swimming in a puddle of blood, as her brittle bones were broken by shrapnel. There were no words to console this innocent child. Words would make no meaning to her muddled mind now. Wiping her face with my kerchief, I returned her hand to a relative who came looking for her.
These images are now engraved in my mind and I have lost any appetite I had for food. Keyse escorted me back to my apartment, bewildered and entranced by the sights I had seen. A local journalist who had covered the Somali conflict for more than a decade, Keyse looked quite composed.
‘Do you not feel what I feel, Keyse?’ I asked
He looked at me, slightly perplexed.
‘I’ve been living here for all my life M,’ he said, ‘I’ve witnessed scenes like these more than a million times. Now I’ve reached a point where I’ve become insentient.’
A wry smile adorned his face.
‘You must feel a tinge of pain or sadness at least? I responded
He was contemplative for a while.
‘I don’t know if I do. Death has benumbed us. We live everyday expectant; if not today then certainly tomorrow will be your turn.’
He was right. Everyone lives here in Mogadishu is expectant of a sudden death; shrapnel or a bullet or a grenade will eventually take your life one way or the other. And the thought now makes me want to look at the possibility of living outside Mogadishu.
The rockets were not restricted to the Bakara market alone but have also hit other parts of Hawlwadaag, Hodan, Wardhiigley and Yaaqshiid districts. Up to 5 people are reported to have been killed in Bakara, 4 in Yaaqshiid, and others in Hodan. Gubta, a hugely populated residential area several kilometres away from bakara, received heavy blows. The number of casualties is on the increase, thought to be 15 now, and the injured are estimated to be as high as 30.
Though no encounters between the Islamists and the TFG were reported, yet the rockets were fired from the Ugandan strongholds, increasing the fury of the already incensed public. Tanks were also seen surrounding the Dabka junction, close to the Ugandan base. This merciless assault on the residential and business areas of Mogadishu came at a time when the government forces were holding a Military Parade in the Presidential Palace, in front of TFG president Sheikh Sharif, to mark their first anniversary. Perhaps the BM rockets were all they had for fireworks today!