MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A suspected bomb blast near a busy Mogadishu market on Tuesday killed five women, the latest victims of Somalia’s unceasing violence that has killed more bystanders than combatants.
Residents said an explosive device was apparently detonated by the burning of garbage in the city’s central Howlwadag area.
“Five died. I could not count the wounded. They were all women who were cleaning the streets,” said Hawa Ibrahim, a cleaner who witnessed the blast. “We will stop the clean-up exercise. No one is willing to die for cleaning the street.”
Businesswoman Hawa Jama described an “ugly scene”.
“I could not count the dead. I just glanced immediately and ran away for my life,” she told Reuters.
The seaside capital has been hit by near-daily insurgent attacks targeting government troops and their Ethiopian military allies that are blamed on an ousted militant Islamist movement.
The government is the 14th attempt at bringing order to anarchy since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Since then, the Horn of Africa nation has been synonymous with lawlessness and unending violence between small warring factions struggling for control.
The latest blast came after heavy clashes overnight in the north and south of the city between suspected Islamist fighters, police and Ethiopian troops.
A senior policeman in the north said assailants armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and artillery mounted on trucks attacked police in Horuwa, an Islamist stronghold where government troops have been repeatedly attacked since last week.
“They attacked the policemen thrice and were repulsed every time they attacked,” the officer said. “No policeman was killed or wounded. ... This was the heaviest attack on our forces since a curfew was imposed last Friday.”
Residents in the area said three people were killed and others wounded when a rocket crashed into a family home.
Residents said sporadic shooting could be heard early on Tuesday, and that Ethiopian troops had cordoned off streets and posted snipers on tall buildings.
“They have sealed off the area, forcing pedestrians who were going to the livestock market to take a longer route,” said Abdullahi Abdi, who lives in north Mogadishu.
Most Somalis who returned to the capital after fleeing heavy fighting earlier in the year keep out of areas where the Ethiopian and government troops are to avoid being caught in the crossfire.
Residents say after an attack, Somali security forces and Ethiopian troops usually arrest or shoot anyone in the area.
However the problem is compounded by the fact that Ethiopian and Somali troops cannot seal off every area where they pass.