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Somali reconciliation conference venue under mortar attacks again
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07:33, July 18, 2007

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At least six mortar shells landed near the site of Somalia's national reconciliation conference in Mogadishu on Tuesday night, two days after the opening ceremony of the conference was interrupted by mortar shells hitting in close proximity.

It was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties from the latest shells, residents said Tuesday.

"There were nearly six mortar rounds that slammed our district, " said Qalid Gure, a resident of Fiat neighborhood, where the venue of the conference is located. "I don't know if anyone was hurt by the shells."

Somali transitional government officials were not immediately available for comment but residents in the area said the sound of the explosions was very loud and the target could be very close to the conference venue, a newly refurbished former police compound in the old part of the restive Somali capital city.

The much-awaited national reconciliation conference officially opened on Sunday but was immediately postponed as mortars hit in very close proximity to the venue.

The conference organizers denied the delay has anything to do with the shelling, saying they just want to wait for more delegates to come to Mogadishu.

Insurgent groups earlier last week threatened to kill anybody attending the conference which they see as giving legitimacy to foreign occupation. In leaflets dropped in Mogadishu, they said " death will be the fate of the collaborators."

Meanwhile, one person was killed and another was seriously wounded early Tuesday when a hand grenade thrown at the security forces stationed in and around the Bakara Market exploded and the police responded by shooting at all directions, shoppers and traders said.

"Both the insurgents and the security forces have no respect for human live," said a trader, who sought anonymity for fear of reprisal from both sides. "This group (insurgents) bomb indiscriminately and the police shoot at anyone that moves after the culprit has left the scene."

Bakara market has been under siege of Somali government forces in the past 12 days, who believe the market is "a hiding place for insurgent elements."

Mohamed Dheere, mayor of Mogadishu, has repeatedly accused traders at the market of colluding with the insurgency and vowed " to ride the market of criminals."

There has been an upsurge in violence since late April when Somali transitional government declared victory over clan and Islamist insurgents it has been battling in Mogadishu since it took over the city in January.

Somali transitional government, formed in 2004 in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, has been struggling to establish its authority in the capital known for lawlessness after the former government was overthrown in 1991 by warlords who carved the Horn of Africa nation into fiefdoms.

Source: Xinhua

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