January 20, 2008 / 3:38 PM / 10 years ago

Mortars fired as new Somali PM arrives in Mogadishu

2 Min Read

<p>Somalia's new Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein (C) is welcomed in Mogadishu January 20, 2008.Feisal Omar</p>

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Gunmen fired mortars at the Somali president's house on Sunday, hours after the country's new prime minister arrived in Mogadishu for the first time since he was sworn in last November, a presidential aide said.

"At least five mortar rounds have been fired at the president's house, where the prime minister is now staying, but they missed," the aide told Reuters on condition of anonymity. He did not know of any casualties.

The attack also coincided with the arrival of 440 soldiers from Burundi, only the second nation after Uganda to contribute to an African Union peacekeeping force trying to bring order to the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.

Somalia's parliament picked Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein in November to replace his unpopular predecessor Ali Mohamed Gedi, who quit last year over a feud with President Abdullahi Yusuf.

"We will be engaged in reconciliation ... We will adopt a national system and try to secure Mogadishu by talking to the rebels," Hussein told journalists at the airport.

Seen as a neutral figure in an often fractious political scene, Hussein's challenge is to help bring unity to a country in which fighting has displaced a million people.

Last week, at least 13 people were killed and 75 wounded in heavy fighting in the Somali capital.

The final contingent of Burundian peacekeepers, which an AU military source said numbered 440 soldiers, boosts an existing 1,800-strong African Union force.

Barigye Ba-Hoku, a spokesman for the AU mission to Somalia, confirmed troops had arrived but declined to give a number. There are already 192 Burundians in Somalia while the rest of the AU force is Ugandan.

The AU wants to boost its peacekeeping presence to 8,000 but has struggled to get African nations to deploy soldiers in a country convulsed by fighting between Islamist insurgents, assorted warlords and allied Somali-Ethiopian troops.

Writing by Tim Cocks, editing by Nick Tattersall and Matthew Jones

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