Somali presidential residence featured by gunshots, security threats

08:40, February 22, 2010      

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Security threats with sporadic gunshots marked the residence of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on Sunday, testifying the tension in the capital of the Horn of Africa country.

Carrying heavy helmets and thick bulletproof jackets, Xinhua correspondents entered the presidential residence under the intensive protection of over 20 armed soldiers and with three armed vehicles leading the way. They gained an opportunity to make an exclusive interview with the president.

The residence is located on a small hill in downtown Mogadishu, overlooking the whole capital. The residence of the prime minister, the offices of ministers and other important leaders gathered all within the presidential residence of about 1 square km.

"It will be easy for a meeting," a public information officer did not forget to crack a joke.

All equipments of journalists, even a pen, have been under strict screening by five armed soldiers in front of the entry. "This is in Mogadishu, I think you can understand," the official told Xinhua.

Somalia has been plagued by civil strife since the overthrow of military strongman Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Islamist insurgent groups, which now control almost the entire south and central Somalia except for a small part of the restive capital Mogadishu, have been mounting deadly attacks against forces of the transitional government and the African Union Mission in Somalia, causing heavy casualty in troops and civilians.

Earlier this month, State Minister Yusuf Mohamed Siyad Indha Adde survived a suicide car bomb attack, in which at least five people were killed and more than 14 others, including two of Adde's bodyguards, were wounded, also in the government-controlled area in the capital city.

The presidential residence was not a peace oasis either. Sporadic or intensive gunshots erupted alternatively around the area, making everyone remain on alarm all the time.

One of the gunshots was fired less than 20 meters from the residence. The official of the residence explained it must be someone suspected who crossed the cordon with arms. "It is quite normal. The insurgents often try to rush into the presidential residence. We, therefore, are always ready to fight them," he said.

President Ahmed accepted the interview under the background of such gunshots in a room of the residence. His peaceful look and composedness impressed the correspondents.

"To make Somalia peaceful is a big responsibility and we have taken a number of tasks in talking and communicating to them (the warring sides) the importance of peace and to take part in peace," Ahmed said.

However, as time goes by, the situation in the Horn of Africa country has become far more complicated than could be expected, he said.

Source: Xinhua
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