Monday, July 10, 2006

Five killed as rival Somali factions clash over contract
by Victor Obure (The EA standard).

Five people were killed at the weekend and several others seriously injured after rival militia clashed along the Kenya/Somalia border.

Fighting erupted at the Somalia border town of Dobley after the two groups differed over a contract to protect convoys of relief supply shipments to the southern part of the troubled nation.

Fighting ensued and spilled over to the common border, where a defeated faction had retreated to regroup before staging a surprise dawn raid on Sunday, leaving at least 14 people with bullet wounds.

Doctors at Garissa Provincial General Hospital on Sunday confirmed that three critically wounded patients were referred from Liboi dispensary for specialised treatment at the facility where most of the casualties were admitted.

Witnesses said forces allied to the Somalia Patriotic Movement (SPM) waylaid a column of trucks ferrying humanitarian supplies after World Food Programme (WFP) reportedly awarded a rival faction a security contract to escort the shipments.

Militiamen ambushed convoy

But the escort team from the Somalia National Front (SNF) returned fire and repulsed the attackers, before giving the convoy safe passage into the Kenyan side of the border as gunshots rent the air.

A truck driver in Garissa town said the militiamen, who ambushed the convoy some 18 km from the Kenyan border, were only interested in settling scores with their rivals.He said another column of 17 trucks ferrying relief supplies to the war torn country was later stranded at Liboi Police Station as the gun battle between the factions raged along the Liboi/Dobley road.

Customs officers said business along the busy border town came to a virtual halt as most transporters suspended operations along the troubled route, while others used Ammuma and Diff entry points to avoid the warring groups.

Villagers in border locations said hundreds of local herdsmen who had entered Somalia in search of pasture and water were forced to cut short their expeditions and return home.

The incident comes after WFP opted to ship its relief food consignment by road through Mombasa port via Garissa District after pirates frustrated their operations by persistently hijacking cargo in the high seas.