Somali PM strikes deal with Mogadishu clan leaders

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MOGADISHU, Oct 9 (Reuters) Somalia's prime minister has reached a truce with Mogadishu's dominant clan, some of whose fighters had supported Islamist-led insurgents in battles with government troops and Ethiopian forces earlier this year.

Hawiye clan elders met Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi amid tight security yesterday in the capital, which has been rocked by outbreaks of violence since January when his soldiers and their Ethiopian allies routed a hardline sharia courts group.

Some Hawiye militia have joined remnants of that movement to wage a rebellion since then. But speaking after the talks, Gedi said the clan leaders would now work with his administration to take on the insurgents.

''We agreed a truce and we agreed that we do something about their complaints. ... We agreed we work together against anyone carrying out violence,'' Gedi told reporters late yesterday.

Responding to accusations that government troops have been heavy-handed in their hunt for rebels, Gedi called on his army officers to control their men, whom he said should perform their duties with respect and discipline.

Gedi's government -- the 14th attempt to forge central rule in Somalia -- has struggled to impose its authority in the face of roadside bombings, grenade attacks and assassinations.

But rubble-strewn Mogadishu has been relatively calm in recent days, and the outcome of Gedi's meeting with the clan leaders was eagerly anticipated by many war-weary residents.

''NO VIOLENCE'' Hawiye spokesman Ahmed Diriye told Reuters the government and insurgents both had a responsibility to end the clashes.

''If the truce gets enforced, I do hope that all people who have political agendas on their mind, opposing the government, will compromise with it,'' he said.

Speaking at a base for African Union peacekeepers, Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed Dheere praised the new accord.

''Because of the dialogue, there was no violence in Mogadishu in the last 48 hours,'' Dheere said.

Some 65,000 people have fled fighting in Mogadishu since early June, the UN refugee agency says, and many are sheltering in squalid conditions outside the city. About 11,000 residents fled the capital in September alone, UNHCR says.

Today, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Mogadishu hospitals have treated 3,387 war-wounded, including nearly 1,000 women and children, so far this year.

''Every week there are still dozens of men, women and children coming in and needing surgery because they have been injured either by mines, shrapnel or stray bullets,'' ICRC spokesman Marcal Izard told a briefing in Geneva.

The agency also said the level of food security in central and southern Somalia had deteriorated dramatically since June due to an inadequate rainy season which led to a poor harvest.

''Civilians are fleeing to rural areas, they are scattered in small settlements,'' Izard said. ''It is difficult to actually reach them ... (because of) the security situation, it is difficult for aid agencies to deliver the aid to the people.'' REUTERS SG BST1817

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