Somali president warns of violence in Horn of Africa

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Violence in Somalia could spill over into the greater Horn of Africa region if the government does not receive urgent help in bringing about peace and stability, President Abdullahi Yusuf said on Monday.

Residents of Mogadishu load possessions onto a bus as they flee heavy fighting in the Somali capital, February 24, 2007. REUTERS/Shabelle Media

Near daily attacks on Somali government and allied Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu have killed dozens of people, mostly civilians, and underscored the tenuous hold the transitional government has on the chaotic country.

The government blames the assaults on remnants of the Islamist movement driven from Mogadishu on December 28 after a two-week offensive by Somali and Ethiopian forces.

Somalia has asked that African Union peacekeepers be sent quickly into the country to combat lawlessness which officials fear could spin out of control and cross borders.

“Failure to help the Transitional Government of Somalia to restore order at this critical time, would turn the sub-region into a state of violence and instability,” Yusuf told the leaders of Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen, meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

“Unless Somalia receives tangible assistance from its neighbors and the international community, it is possible that it would slide back to lawlessness,” he said.

Yusuf’s government is the 14th attempt at establishing authority in Somalia since 1991 when it fell into anarchy after the toppling of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Yusuf praised Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for his help in ousting the Islamist movement that had controlled Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia for six months.

At the meeting in Addis Ababa, the presidents of Yemen and Sudan pledged to assist Somalia to achieve reconciliation and in the reconstruction of the country.

Inside Somalia, the violence continued on Monday with grenade attacks in Mogadishu.

“The bomb exploded in the shop causing a fire. There was a loud explosion. My legs were burned. I saw nearly four other people burning,” said a government soldier who gave his name as Haydar.

“The lady selling in the petrol shop was one of those burned. I think this was one of those attacks aimed at us.”

Additional reporting by Guled Mohamed in Mogadishu