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Tuesday, September 25, 2001, updated at 23:53(GMT+8)

Somali Local Govt. Launches Campaign Against Road Banditry

Serious banditry along the road linking Mogadishu to the southern regions of Somalia has forced the local government to react seriously to restore order in the area.

Nearly 10 battle wagons and over 120 heavily armed militiamen have been mobilized in what is called a decisive operation against the banditry along the road from Mogadishu to Kismaio, which is now allegedly "almost impassable" for both the ordinary public transport and pedestrians.

The operation, taken by the Jubba Valley Alliance forces which control the southern port town of Kismaio, started on Monday from Kismaio, 500 kilometers south of Mogadishu, and stretches towards the road leading to Mogadishu.

District commissioner of Kismaio town, Dahir Mohammed Elmi, told the reporter that the costly operation will continue until the banditry is cleared from the road.

He said the operation has so far covered several villages and Jilib town, with over 32 bandits having been apprehended and put into the police custody of Kismaio town.

According to the Jubba Valley Alliance, among many other roadblocks, the most dangerous six have been cleared off, and no single roadblock is now existing between Kismaio and Jilib town.

Over 300 million Somali shillings (about 15,000 U.S. dollars) has been raised for the move, following the imposition of tax on both the air and seaports of Kismaio together with the main market and the animal market of the town, Elmi said.

He said a large amount of this money has been allocated for the hospital of the town where now over 80 people, mainly weapon wounded and malaria victims, are being treated.

The Medicines sans Frontiers-Belgium aid agency, which had maintained the hospital of Kismaio, pulled out all of its staff members after the security in the region deteriorated six months ago.

Despite the sigh of relief in the area between Jilib and Kismaio towns, still it seems that the trouble with the roadblocks is getting worse in other parts of the same road.

On Monday night, a bus that came from Kismaio was stopped in between Garas Weyne and Kunyo Barow villages, some 290 kilometers south of Mogadishu, and was looted everything the passengers owned.

In another incident on the same night, another bus from Mogadishu heading towards Kismaio was also attacked by gunmen near Bulo Marer village where all of the passengers were robbed of everything they possessed, including their clothing.

Meanwhile, the police forces of the transitional government in Mogadishu are also attempting to pump the freelance gangs out of Mogadishu and Kismaio, thus making the area in between them a no man's land.

The worst areas are between Shalambod district and Jilib town where no one is in real control despite that both the transitional government and the Jubba Valley Alliance have made their claims.

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Serious banditry along the road linking Mogadishu to the southern regions of Somalia has forced the local government to react seriously to restore order in the area.

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