Heavy shelling rocked Somalia’s capital today, killing 15 people and wounding dozens, as rebels fired mortars at the country’s lawmakers meeting for the first time this year, medics said amid a chaotic session that saw the Speaker ousted.
Islamist insurgents, who have fought a three-year war against the fragile interim government, launched their attack from their stronghold in Mogadishu’s main Bakara market, triggering return shellfire from African Union peacekeepers.
“We have so far carried out seven dead civilians and 34 who were injured. We are busy collecting casualties,” ambulance services coordinator Ali Muse told Reuters by telephone.
Mr Muse said the death toll was expected to rise.
A police source said some rebel mortars landed near the Parliament, which last met in December, but there were no direct hits.
Parliament business has been paralysed this year, with many legislators living in Kenya, Europe and America because of security fears. The chamber has also been split by a bitter feud over the term of the chamber’s Speaker. One lawmaker said the chamber held a vote of confidence on the government.
President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has failed to deliver on the hope he would be able to unite some of the country’s warring factions and establish a greater degree of central power following his election in January 2009.
In March, the moderate Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca rebel group signed a power-sharing deal with the government but negotiations over ministerial posts have made slow progress.
Many Somalis have grown increasingly disillusioned at the politicians’ failure to curb the fighting and tackle corruption. Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants, and a second group, Hizbul Islam, control much of Mogadishu and huge swathes of central and southern Somalia.
Meanwhile late today, MPs opposing the Speaker of the Parliament, Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur Madobe booed when he attempted to speak at the session.
“Dooni mayno, dooni mayno (we do not want, we do not want),” repeatedly shouted the rebel MPs. In turn the legislators in favour of the speaker shouted: “Waa ku doonaynaa, waa ku doonaynaa (we want you, we want you).”
The mutineering legislators want a new leadership elected, claiming that the chairmanship of Sheikh Aden Madobe and his Deputy, Professor Mohamed Omar Dhalha ended in August last year.
MPs supporting the current parliamentary leadership insist that the Speaker and his deputy’s mandate will last till end of the current parliament in August 2011.
Angered by the development in the parliament Sheikh Madobe, held a press conference in his office after the noisy session. He stated that the MPs in the session held a vote of no confidence against the government, saying that 280 legislators voted against the government out of 318 present in the chambers.
“The government has collapsed following the MPs’ vote of no confidence,” announced Sheikh Madobe. “We expect President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to nominate a new prime minister,” he added.
The Speaker’s remarks on the government surprised many people because a vote of confidence for the Somali government was not on the agenda.
Late today, rebel MPs had a separate meeting in the chambers after Sheikh Madobe left. They appointed the oldest legislator, Haji Shuki Sheikh Ahmed, to act as the Speaker of the Parliament.
Talking to the media, Haji Shuki, 85, said that he will only remain acting until a new speaker is going to be elected in 15 days.
Today’s parliamentary session has demonstrated that there is a serious crisis within the TFG involving the speaker of the house and members of the government led by Prime Minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke.