Somalis to erase line dividing capital Warlords to allow full occupation

December 28, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- The two major rival clan leaders i Somalia have agreed to abolish the so-called Green Line dividing their forces in this capital and to allow U.S. troops to occupy the entire city, it was announced yesterday.

The pact presages an increase in the presence of U.S. forces in north Mogadishu and a more aggressive attitude by the U.S.-led, United Nations-sponsored force here toward confiscating heavy weapons.

"I think you will see in the next several days the removal of all heavy weapons from north Mogadishu and the removal of all vestiges of the Green Line," said a senior U.S. official who had a hand in setting up the talks between warlords Ali Mahdi Mohamed and Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid.

He based his statement on a part of the accord that re-emphasizes an earlier agreement by both sides to move all of their heavy weapons, including gun-mounted pickup trucks called technicals, into compounds outside the city.

Until now, U.S. troops and other foreign forces here have been confined to the southern area of Mogadishu, with the northern section the objective of only sporadic patrols. As a result, north Mogadishu became a zone of chaos with constant violence and general lawlessness.

But in a five-hour meeting at the makeshift U.S. Embassy that began Saturday and lasted into the night, Mr. Aidid and his chief clan rival, self-proclaimed acting President Ali Mahdi, agreed to unify the city.

Mr. Aidid controls the southern section, while Mr. Ali Mahdi's forces are dominant in the 20 percent of the capital north of the Green Line. The city was divided during two years of civil war as Mr. Aidid and Mr. Ali Mahdi violently vied for power after together toppling President Mohammed Siad Barre in January 1991.

The Green Line -- now a no man's land of burned-out rubble and collapsed buildings -- is scheduled to be the site of a joint demonstration by General Aidid and Mr. Ali Mahdi today to celebrate their agreement.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Ritter said yesterday that "we are beginning day and night patrols into the area very soon." And U.N. spokesman Farouk Mawlawi said that he was told the U.S. Marines would establish two permanent posts in the north.

Yesterday's agreement was the third pact aimed at reducing violence that the rival warlords have lent their names to since the Marines landed here Dec. 9.

If the agreement holds, it comes not a moment too soon: The security situation here continues to deteriorate.

In one of the more serious incidents since the arrival of the U.S. forces, a large band of Somalis attacked a U.N. military observer post in north Mogadishu on Saturday.

The U.N. spokesman, Mr. Mawlawi, said that the post was a target for nearly two hours of fire from rifles, machine guns and rockets. It took a company of Pakistani U.N. peacekeepers and a flyover by U.S. F-18 fighter jets and a helicopter gunship to drive off the attackers.

Mr. Mawlawi said that at least two Somalis were killed and several were wounded during the clash. No U.N. personnel were hurt.

In the interior, Italian troops occupied the town of Gailalassi yesterday. Today, U.S. Marines and Canadian airborne troops are expected to move into Belet Huen, near the Ethiopian border in western Somalia.

With those two cities taken over, the U.S.-led task force will have achieved its major objective of securing the country's eight most important famine-zone centers so that food distribution can proceed on a large scale.

More than 22,000 tons of donated food have piled up in warehouses at Mogadishu's port since the first Marines arrived in Somalia on Dec. 9. That's enough food to feed 52 million people for a day, but a shortage of trucks has prevented its rapid distribution.

The World Food Program had planned to bring 100 trucks from neighboring Ethiopia, but Somalian truckers staged a protest in Mogadishu yesterday, saying the plan would rob them of employment.

Lt. Gen. Robert B. Johnston, commander of the U.S. joint task force to Somalia, told CNN that it was "reasonable to expect that VTC some troops" may be taken out of Somalia in January. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft appeared on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" and made a similar prediction.

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